ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Supreme Court of Tennessee Holds that Email Satisfies Statute of Frauds

597px-Tennessee-StateSeal.svgIn a family squabble over the transfer of land, the parties' attorneys settled on the eve of trial in the following exchange of emails:

At 4:34 p.m., Ms. Hagan sent the following email to Mr. Reed:

This confirms that we have settled this case on the following terms:
Elrod deeds property interest back to Waddle, Both [sic] parties sign full release, Waddle bears no court costs.
Let me know if I have correctly stated our agreement.
Mary Bethpage3image20624

At 5:02 p.m., Mr. Reed responded:

That is the agreement. I understand that you will draft the deed and take a shot at the court’s order. No admission of guilt is to be included.
Greg Reed

Chief_justice_clark_066_-_croppedOne of the parties later challenged the settlement agreement as unenforceable because it did not comply with the Statute of Frauds.  First, the Supreme Court of Tennessee held that the settlement agreement came within the Statute of Frauds because it required a transfer of land.  Next, the Court held that Mr. Reed's email satisfied the signature requirement of the Staute of Frauds.  The Court held that UETA applied and, therefore, the email contained an "electronic signature."  Chief Jusice Cornelia Clark reasoned:

The parties, through their attorneys, evidenced an intent to finalize the settlement by electronic means; thus, the UETA applies. See, e.g., Crestwood Shops, L.L.C. v. Hilkene, 197 S.W.3d 641, 651-53 (Mo. Ct. App. 2006) (holding that the UETA applied because the parties manifested their intent to conduct business by email). Pursuant to section 47-10-107(c), the emails counsel exchanged constitute a signed memorandum, note, or writing for purposes of the Statute of Frauds. 

Waddle v. Elrod (Tenn. Apr. 24 2012).

[Meredith R. Miller]

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