Like to Use Emojis With Your Professional Contacts? Enjoy Your Lawsuit.

The use of emojis has become a daily form of communication without getting into a long telephone or text conversation.  It conveys, or attempts to convey, information to an intended recipient certain actions, feelings, thoughts or intended actions of the sender towards someone or something.  It can apply in private conversations or in mass communications such as social media platforms.

What happens when the recipient of an emoji takes the meaning to be vastly different than the intention of the sender?  The ramifications of such a miscommunication can result in costly lawsuits and thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees as well as potential judgments.

 Imagine the following scenario: Bob and James are engaged in a business deal concerning thousands of dollars. They know each other very well, have amicable business discussions, have previously closed deals without any problem, and even consider each other friends. Bob sends a text to James that reads: “Did you receive the amendment and are we good to go?” James, simply and hastily, sends a thumbs-up emoji reaction to the text.  What did James just convey?

Bob is of the opinion that James not only has received the amendment but is in agreement with an amendment to their previous contract.  Bob reads that thumbs up as an affirmative sign to the whole text and therefore Bob begins performing under this amendment.  James on the other hand states that the thumbs up was only in reference to the receipt of the amendment and not an agreement to the contents of the amendment and there were details that needed to be worked out between the parties.  These facts are based upon a real matter and the parties became embroiled in a hotly contested contractual dispute costing them each thousands of dollars in time, opportunity cost, attorney’s fees, and not to mention a friendship because of this one little emoji.

In a similar matter from 2021, a farmer had to pay damages in the amount of $82,000.00, not including attorney’s fees, for using a thumbs-up emoji after being sued for breach of contract. The thumbs-up emoji the farmer used bound him to the contract that the Court found he subsequently breached by non-performance.  The farmer argued that the emoji was only to convey receipt of the contract from the supplier.  Obviously, the Court disagreed.

Use of emojis are not only risky in business contexts but also domestic matters.  Use of certain emojis could also be used in criminal proceedings to show the intent of the sender.

Courts are varied on how emojis are being interpreted, especially in a contractual sense, but these cases are becoming more and more prevalent leading to large settlements and verdicts that could have been avoided.

Please contact our attorneys at Law Firm Carolinas for any questions you have relating to your business and contract needs. Our attorneys are experienced in handling complex litigation and can help you navigate how evolving technology is affecting the legal rights of business entities and individuals.