Thumbs-up emoji case: Lawyer says judge made right call in awarding farmer $82,000

A Saskatchewan judge made the right call when he ordered a farmer to pay $82,000 after sending a thumbs-up emoji to a contract text message, according to a commercial lawyer.

The dispute was between South West Terminal Ltd. (SWT) and Achter Land & Cattle Ltd. over a flax contract.

SWT argued that a text message with a thumbs-up emoji was understood as an agreement that Achter would deliver flax to SWT.

Like many, commercial attorney Michael Conlon said he was surprised when he first heard about the case.

“When you dig into the facts surrounding the case, which the court obviously did, I think the court arrived at the correct conclusion, and the decision does reflect the court’s kind of adapting to the modern commercial realities,” Conlon said.

“In this instance, the court had identified that there was a pattern and history between these two parties, in terms of how they entered into binding agreements,” he said.

“The facts here follow that pattern. Except in this instance, the vendor approved the contract via a thumbs-up emoji. And the court concluded that this closely followed the pattern that had already been established between the parties, and found that a binding contract had been entered into.”

Justice TJ Keene awarded SWT $82,200 in damages, plus interests and court costs in a summary judgment in Swift Current on June 8.

“I don’t think necessarily this decision means that anyone sending a thumbs up emoji over text has to be worried that they’ve entered into a binding contract,” Conlon said.

He said it was unlikely that Achter would succeed if the decision was appealed.

“I think the defendants might be facing an uphill battle on appeal. The important thing here was a history between these two parties that went back years.”

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