Legal Battle Over Ambiguous Message Suggests Texting Isn't The Best Business Practice
In 2020 Americans sent 2.1 trillion text messages, according to CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association. More business owners also utilize text messaging as a way to communicate with customers, vendors, and others.
When faced with litigation, business owners may wonder – can text messages be used in court? The answer is yes, text messages may be utilized in court proceedings, and have been used by plaintiffs and defendants in a variety of cases.
Still, negotiating business transactions via text message may not be the best practice. As an example, a $615,000 metro Detroit real estate deal hinged on a cryptic 40 character text, and the courts were left to decide how to determine the intentions of the message.
A sizeable real estate deal hinges on an ambiguous text
In a recent case, O’Reilly Rancilio attorneys successfully represented their client in a legal battle involving a vague text message.
In the case, our client claimed the text message was meant to renegotiate the price of a purchase agreement, while the opposing side interpreted the text to mean that our client wished to terminate the contract. The defendant filed a countersuit arguing our client didn’t hold up his end of the agreement.
The Macomb County Circuit Court granted our client’s motion for summary disposition and the court ordered specific performance of the purchase agreement. The opposing side’s countersuit was dismissed.
A Court of Appeals ruling upheld the lower court on all counts. The judges agreed that the case hinged on the parties’ intent: The plaintiff’s actions and documentation support that the plaintiff did not view the text as a termination of the contract.
The defendant’s inactions were also considered by the court. After getting the text, the defendant didn’t return the plaintiff’s $15,000 deposit. In addition, the defendant neglected to let the title company know the deal had been allegedly terminated.
Every communication in a business transaction should be carefully considered because ambiguous messages has the potential to lead to litigation and appeals.
Help is available
As more business owners turn to text messaging and other technologies for communication and business deals, the greater the likelihood of incidents such as the one mentioned above.