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Shattuck v. Klotzbach

Civ. Act. No. 01-1109A (Superior Ct., Mass., December 11, 2001)

The court denied defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint, which sought to enforce a contract for the sale of real property between the parties based on e-mails they exchanged.  The court rejected defendants' claim that this contract was unenforceable by virtue of the Statute of Frauds, holding that e-mails typed and sent by defendant containing a salutation consisting of defendant's name can constitute writings sufficient to satisfy the statute of frauds.

Plaintiff brought the instant action to enforce a contract for the sale of real estate.  Plaintiff claimed that the contract had been formed in a series of e-mails exchanged by the parties, each of which contained at the foot thereof the type-written name of the respective sender.  The e-mails exchanged identified the property that was the subject of the parties' agreement, the purchase price, specified a 10 percent downpayment, waived all usual contingencies, including financing, and called for a closing as soon as possible.

Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the contract was barred by the Statute of Frauds, because it was not evidenced by a writing.  Indeed, defendants' last e-mail contemplated the delivery of a purchase and sale agreement, to be signed by the defendants.  Apparently, they never signed such an agreement.

The court denied defendants' motion, holding that the e-mails the defendant husband sent the plaintiff were sufficient to satisfy the writing requirement of the statute of frauds.  In so holding, the court relied on prior case law that held that a telegram may be a writing sufficient to satisfy the statute of frauds.  Said the court:

Here, all e-mail correspondence between the parties contained a typewritten signature at the end.  Taken as a whole, a reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the e-mails sent by the defendant were "signed" with the intent to authenticate the information contained therein as his act.  Moreover, courts have held that a telegram may be a signed writing sufficient to satisfy the statute of frauds. … This court believes that the typed name at the end of an e-mail is more indicative of a party's intent to authenticate than that of a telegram as the sender of an e-mail types and sends the message on his own accord and types his own name as he so chooses.  In the case at bar, the defendant sent e-mails regarding the sale of the property and intentionally and deliberately typed his name at the end of all such e-mails.  A reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the e-mails sent by the defendant regarding the terms of the sale of the property were intended to be authenticated by the defendant's deliberate choice to type his name at the conclusion of all e-mails.

The court accordingly denied the motion to dismiss and allowed plaintiff to proceed with his claim.

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