Can an e-mail serve as a binding contract?

Friend called attorney due to numerous car problems and they asked for copies of prior repairs for review. Lawyer replied by email with instructions and fees, and stated that if she did not agree, to reply in writing. If nothing received within 10 days, they would assume contract was OK. She did not see the email and now they say she owes $3500, even if she does not pursue the issue. She never met the attorney or signed any contracts. Can they hold her responsible based on an email notification? They did write a letter to car manufacturer for which she is willing to pay a fee to cover that time.

Asked on November 12, 2011 under General Practice, Illinois

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

An e mail cannot serve as a binding agreement in and of itself. However, it can be evidence of an agreement, oral, written or implied in fact.

The problem with an e mail is that most people assume that once sent, the person to whom it is sent reads it within a reasonable period of time and that it has reached its intended recipient.

For there to be a contract, there has to be an offer, acceptance and consideration for the contract. Under most states in this country, the state bar for each state requires that for legal services exceeding $1,000, the attorney must have the client sign a written agreement for services to be rendered. In your situation, it seems that the attorney should have received a signed agreement from your friend before legal services were started.


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