The Little Steel Company is a small steel fabricator that makes steel parts for various metal machine shops. When Little receives an order from a client, it must locate and purchase 10 tons of a certain grade of steel to complete the order. Little sends an e-mail message to West Coast Steel Company inquiring into the availability of 10 tons of the described grade of steel. West Coast replies by e-mail that it has available the required 10 tons of steel and quotes $450 per ton. Little replies by e-mail that it will purchase the 10 tons of described steel at the quoted price. The e-mails are signed electronically by Little and West Coast. There is no date set forth in the e-mails for delivery. When the steel arrives, Little rejects shipment, claiming the steel was shipped too late. When West Coast sues Little for breach of contract, Little also raises the defense of the Statute of Frauds. Who wins, and why?
I think in this case, West coast may win this suit. In 1999, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act was put into effect that gave authorization to enter into contracts by way of email. The UETA mainly permits the writings and signatures of parties involved by either email or fax, or even a voice recording, doing away with the prerequisite that there must be a physical document that all parties must physically sign. The UETA has been adopted by 48 states and Congress in whole or in part. Because two parties can agree, sign, and barter copies of a contract without ever meeting face to face, signing a physical document, or producing a hard copy of an agreement, West Coast has a great case against Little. The law states that such an agreement can be just as valid as a written agreement using actual signatures. The law also specifies a list of documents that cannot be signed electronically, including wills, trusts and estates; marriage, divorce, adoption, and other family agreements; court documents and filings; utility service terminations; eviction,...
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