Michigan Appellate Court Affirms Validity of Electronic Signature Under UETA

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Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a defendant insurance company seeking to dispose of a challenge to an electronic signature executed by a policyholder. Zulkiewski v. Am. Gen. Life Ins. Co., No. 299025, 2012 WL 2126068 (Mich. Ct. App. Jun. 12, 2012). In this case, shortly before a life insurance policy holder died, the beneficiary information on his policy was changed through the insurance company’s online account management service. The former beneficiaries challenged the new beneficiary designation, arguing that although the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) permits an electronic signature, to validate the authenticity of such a signature the insurance company must prove the efficacy of its security procedures. On appeal, the court held that the trial court did not err when it relied on evidence provided by the insurance company showing the extent of the personal information required to change the beneficiary, combined with an affidavit that the new beneficiary did not change the beneficiary designation. The court further explained that the appellants misread the relevant portions of the UETA when they argued that the lower court improperly accepted the insurance company’s assertions that its security procedures were “adequate to prevent deception by an imposter.” The court explained that the insurance company need not prove the efficacy of its online security procedures to authenticate a customer’s signature since under the UETA doing so is merely one method by which to show attribution.