Are Emails Considered Legal Documents?

Ian Lamont/CC-BY-2.0

The Uniform Electronic Transactions Act gives legal status to contracts negotiated by email, according to an article by Peter J. Lamont for Architectural Lighting. In addition, the Electronic Records and Signatures in Commerce Act states that electronic signatures in email contracts are equally as valid as signatures on paper contracts. Certain contracts such as student loans are exempted from these federal laws.

Numerous court cases have been litigated on the legality of email contracts, Lamont notes in “Architectural Lighting.” Courts generally rule on the side of email as a legally binding contract, as long as the email includes elements of standard contract agreements. In one case, a lighting designer sought to void emailed terms to which he agreed with a client. The client accepted the terms discussed via email with the designer. The court held the designer to the terms agreed upon based on the designer’s intent to enter into a contract.

In the case of Naldi v. Grunberg, reports “The New York Times,” Judge David Friedman stated in his legal opinion that email is the same as handwriting. The judge also stated that email is proof of a deal. Adding a disclaimer to an email may offer some protection from having the communication become a binding contract.