Your email signature could be signing more than you think, a new High Court judgment has ruled.

In a recent dispute over the sale of some land, the owners’ lawyer may have unwittingly cost his client £25,000. In an exchange between lawyers for both parties, Daniel Tear set out terms and a sale price £25,000 below the asking price, which the buyers’ lawyer accepted.

Mr Tear claimed nothing was finalised because paperwork hadn’t been signed by both parties, citing Section 2 (1) of the Law of Property Act of 1989. The Act states that, ‘The document incorporating the terms or, where contracts are exchanged, one of the documents incorporating them (but not necessarily the same one) must be signed by or on behalf of each party to the contract.’

However, Judge Pearce said Mr Tear had in fact signed the terms in his email because his automatically-added email signature appeared underneath. He said that while not all the correspondence included his email signature, it appeared on the email in question below the words, ‘many thanks’, showing ‘an intention to connect the name with the contents of the email’.

“The purported signature of the solicitor on behalf of the defendant was by ‘automatic’ generation of his name, occupation, role and contact details at the foot of an email” Judge Pearce of Manchester Civil Justice Centre wrote.

He went on to say “I am satisfied that Mr Tear signed the relevant email on behalf of the defendant”

It’s clear this wasn’t Mr Tear’s intention. But anyone with an email signature can feel the weight and potential implications of this ruling.

It is important to note that this example is English Law but we could see the same result in Scotland.

If you’d like any advice on authoring and signing legal documents, or any other legal matter, get in touch with us today.