Emoji costs farmer $82,000 for breach of contract on grain delivery

A farmer failed to deliver on a contract with South West Terminal in Saskatchewan, saying his thumbs up emoji wasn't approving the contract.

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These days, many of us use emojis to communicate via text, but a thumbs-up emoji has cost a Canadian farmer $82,000 for a breach of contract, reported CNN Business.

According to court documents from March 2021, South West Terminal (SWT), a farmer-owned, independent grain and crop inputs company in Saskatchewan, sent a text message to grain suppliers wanting to buy flax for $17/bushel for delivery between September and November 2021. 

SWT drafted a contract for farmer Chris Achter to sell SWT 86 metric tons of flax for $17/bushel for delivery in November.

The SWT rep signed the contract in ink then sent a photo of the contract via cell phone to Achter with the message “please confirm flax contract.” Achter responded with a 👍 emoji.

Achter never delivered the flax in November 2021, according to the documents. By November, the spot price of flax was $41/bushel.

Achter denied entering into the contract. He said his regular texts with the SWT rep were informal and he had used the  👍 emoji simply to confirm he had received the flax contract, not to confirm that he had agreed with the terms of the flax contract. In court documents he said the full terms and conditions of the contract were not sent and he understood a complete contract would follow via fax or email to review and sign.

Achter and SWT have a longstanding relationship and have entered into 15 to 20 contracts since 2015, stated court documents. After the COVID pandemic, SWT stopped sending reps to meet with producers in person and would typically do contracts through email or text message. The SWT rep said he had completed four contracts with Achter this way. Other responses from Achter to contracts were "looks good," "okay" and "yup," with all contracts delivered on with no issue.

The judge decided Achter okayed or approved the contract just like he had done before except this time he used a 👍 emoji.

"In my opinion, when considering all of the circumstances, that meant approval of the flax contract and not simply that he had received the contract and was going to think about it," the judge wrote in his decision. "In my view, a reasonable bystander knowing all of the background would come to the objective understanding that the parties had reached consensus ad item – a meeting of the minds – just like they had done on numerous other occasions."

The judge ruled Achter owed SWT $82,000 plus interests and costs for failing to deliver the flax.

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