Farmer ordered to pay after judge rules thumbs-up emoji a valid contractual agreement

Meera Jacka
Farmer ordered to pay up after judge rules thumbs-up emoji a valid contractual agreement

One unlucky farmer was ordered to pay for an undelivered product after a judge determined that a thumbs-up emoji amounted to a valid contractual agreement.

Emojis have become a staple of modern life, appearing on all platforms of social media and often used to communicate without the effort of writing a response.

Many of the small images can have multiple interpretations (we’re looking at you, eggplant emoji), with one Canadian farmer finding this out the hard way.

The Court of King’s Bench decision determined a thumbs-up emoji sent by Swift Current farmer Chris Achter indicated that the farmer had agreed to deliver product worth over $82,000.

Mickleborough’s order was for $82,000 worth of flax — a whopping 86 tonnes

Kent Mickleborough, the buyer in question, had spoken to Achter over the phone prior to texting through a contract to deliver 86 tonnes of flax for $17 per bushel.

Mickleborough also added “please confirm flax contract”, to which Achter replied with a thumbs-up emoji. However, when the delivery was supposed to arrive in November, Mickleborough received nothing. By this time, prices for the crop had increased and the two ultimately ended up in court to resolve the issue.

“I deny that he accepted the thumbs-up emoji as a digital signature of the incomplete contract,” Achter said in an affidavit to the court. “I did not have time to review the Flax Contract and merely wanted to indicate that I did receive his text message.”

Achter’s lawyers expressed concern that the ruling would allow for more cases on the interpretation of emojis

However, the judge, Justice Timothy Keene, agreed with Mickleborough and ruled that the emoji met signature requirements. This meant Achter was in breach of the contract and would need to pay.

Achter’s lawyers have argued that this unusual case and its subsequent ruling would “open the floodgates” for cases surrounding the interpretation of emojis.

“This court cannot (nor should it) attempt to stem the tide of technology and common usage – this appears to be the new reality in Canadian society and courts will have to be ready to meet the new challenges that may arise from the use of emojis and the like,” Keene said, staying true to his decision.

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