[Update 1: Corrects that the court ruling came from a trial court and not from the state's supreme court.]
Massachusetts real estate agents and lawyers should now be careful about what they put in emails: They could come back to bite you.
Or, at least, contractually bind you to something you didn’t want to be contractually bound to.
In late May, a Massachusetts trial court ruled in Feldberg v. Coxall that a series of emails between the buyer’s and seller’s attorneys, the final one attached a revised but unsigned offer to purchase two pieces of land from the buyer, created a binding agreement entitling the buyer to a notice of claim.
In the constantly evolving world of digital communication, it was only a matter of time before this issue hit the stage. While many Realtors and attorneys may assume all emailed, non-hard copy communication was informal and non-binding up until now, this has changed the game — at least in one state.
If you’d still like to operate under the assumption that nothing you say without slapping your signature (in pen form) on something, then Richard Vetstein of the Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog suggests you should add a disclaimer down at the bottom.
He offers this as an example on the LexisNexis website (feel free to use it):
“Emails sent or received shall neither constitute acceptance of conducting transactions via electronic means nor shall create a binding contract in the absence of a fully signed written contract.”
He also advises being straight up with the people you are interacting with from the beginning so that there is no confusion..