Arizona Appellate Court Requires Further Proceedings on Whether Certain Emails Constitute Electronic Signatures Under State Law

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Recently, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that a state trial court erred in dismissing a claim that an emailed thank-you note acknowledging the receipt of a signed agreement constituted an electronic signature. Young v. Rose, 286 P.3d 518 (Az. Ct. App. 2012). In this case, a real estate agent sued two former clients for breaching an exclusive representation contract. The clients had manually signed the contract and returned it as a PDF copy. The agent never manually signed the agreement, but claimed that her electronic business card attached to an email thanking her clients for the PDF copy constituted an electronic signature under the Arizona Electronic Transactions Act, which includes a broad definition of electronic signature. The trial court disagreed and dismissed the case, noting that the agent’s business card was included on all of her outgoing emails and therefore could not constitute an electronic signature in some cases but not others. The Arizona Court of Appeals vacated the trial court order on procedural grounds and held that further proceedings are necessary to determine whether the email at issue qualifies as an electronic signature. The court explained that in addition to proving the existence of an electronic signature, the agent must also establish that the parties intended to conduct the transaction by electronic means.