A Canadian farmer owes $82,000 for breach of contract after using a “thumbs-up” emoji in a text.
According to court documents from the King’s Bench for Saskatchewan in March 2021, grain purchasers with South West Terminal, Ltd., sent a text message to grain suppliers wanting to buy flax for $17 per bushel for delivery in October, November, or December of that year. After phone calls with farmers Bob and Chris Achter, SWT drafted a contract for Chris Achter to sell SWT 86 metric tons of flax for $17 a bushel and deliver the flax in November.
The SWT rep signed the contract in ink and then sent a photo of the contract via cell phone to Chris Achter along with the message “Please confirm flax contract.”
Achter responded with a “thumbs-up” emoji, according to the documents.
Achter never delivered the flax in November 2021, according to the documents. By November, the price of flax was $41 per bushel.
The SWT representative said in court documents he had done at least four other contracts with Achter via text. He said the only difference this time was Achter responded with a “thumbs-up” emoji instead of “ok”, “yup” or “looks good.”
According to Achter in the court documents, he confirmed “the thumbs-up emoji simply confirmed that I received the Flax contract. It was not a confirmation that I agreed with the terms of the Flax Contract. The full terms and conditions of the Flax Contract were not sent to me, and I understood that the complete contract would follow by fax or email for me to review and sign. Mr. Mikleborough [sic] regularly texted me, and many of the messages were informal.”
Achter’s counsel said in the documents, “allowing a simple 👍 emoji to signify identity and acceptance would open up the flood gates to allow all sorts of cases coming forward asking for interpretations as to what various different emojis mean – for example what does a 👊 emoji mean or a 🤝 emoji mean, etc. Counsel argues the courts will be inundated with all kinds of cases if this court finds that the 👍 emoji can take the place of a signature.”
Achter also said he would never sign a contract for contract for product without including an Act of God clause, according to court documents.
The judge said it appears the deal was “at least verbally struck,” according to the documents.
He wrote, “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Chris okayed or approved the contract just like he had done before except this time he used a 👍 emoji. In my opinion, when considering all of the circumstances that meant approval of the flax contract and not simply that he had received the contract and was going to think about it. In my view a reasonable bystander knowing all of the background would come to the objective understanding that the parties had reached consensus ad item – a meeting of the minds – just like they had done on numerous other occasions.”
The judge ruled Achter owed SWT $82,000 plus interests and costs for failing to deliver the flax.
CNN has reached out to both parties for comment but has not yet heard back.