Q&A Series: How Does An Electronic Signature Hold Up In Court?

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questionWhile digital signature technology has been around for decades, it is still a relatively new concept for many industries. Ryan Asdenti, a Sales Executive of eOriginal, will be walking us through common questions that come up during the sales process to help businesses more easily undergo digital transformations.

Today’s question: How Does an Electronic Signature Hold Up in Court? 

Ideally, we hope that a contract is never disputed. However, should a company need to provide evidence in a court setting, it is important to have the original signed and executed document. In the paper world, the original contract is often easy to discern. With a wetted signed document, the original Authoritative Copy of the contract can undergo a smear test. Any copies of this document are clearly copies and would not smear.

With digital documents, this becomes more of a challenge if you do not have a proper digital transaction management system in place. Here’s why: Let’s say you have a document. You save a copy of that document to your computer’s hard drive, email a copy of the document to a customer, and then that customer saves a copy of the document to their hard drive. You could argue that there are three different versions of that document. And, it would be hard to clearly argue who holds the original of that document and which version was truly the original.

So how can we identify the true Authoritative Copy of that document? And once we do, how do we provide confidence that the eSigned document hold up in court? The answer is threefold.

eSignature Technology

eOriginal maintains legal integrity, admissibility and enforceability from the moment the document is generated.  Every interaction with the document is tracked via eOriginal’s Audit Trail. This includes every time a document is viewed, forwarded, and signed.

Secure eSignature solutions like eOriginal’s SmartSign® software utilize a combination of electronic and digital signatures. After the electronic signature has been captured and applied to the document during the signing ceremony, our SmartSign software binds the electronic signature and the document content with a second digital signature. This second digital signature serves as a lock, adding further assurance that the information in the document has not changed since the electronic signature was applied.

The Law

The root of the concern for most companies with electronically signed documents relates to the enforceability of the contract. The fact that no case law exists demonstrates that admissibility and enforceability of electronic contracts are not reported legal issues. Electronic commerce laws dictate how electronic chattel paper is to be managed as it is presented executed and retained. These laws include E-Sign ActUETA; and UCC Section 9-105.

The Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA) and the Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN) empower electronic documents and electronic signatures to be used with the same effect as paper documents and ink signatures. These two acts defines an electronic signature as “an electronic sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”

Certified Print® Evidentiary Package

As part of eOriginal’s Transaction Services, we also provide the ability to produce a Certified Print® Evidentiary Package and add yet another level of peace-of-mind and functionality. eOriginal provides the ability to print certified copies of an Authoritative Copy of a document. The paper document prints and the operator certifies its accuracy. These documents meet court evidentiary package requirements and can/are used as such.

The four items printed as part of the process of producing a certified print:

  • Cover Sheet. This page identifies the user who requested the certified print copy. The user’s full name, email address, and organization identifier are printed at the top. Additionally, the document name, number of pages, and a system identifier are printed. This system identifier is used to tie all of the printed pages together as a package. It is printed in the lower left corner of all subsequent pages.
  • Document History Report. A full record of the document’s history is produced, describing all of the user interactions with the document within the repository: from its creation as an Electronic Original document through to its Certified Print request.
  • Certification Statement. The user verifying the Certified Print must read and sign this statement. In doing so, it confirms that he or she has authorization by the owning organization to perform the Certified Print; and ensures he or she has reviewed the resulting documentation to confirm it is a true and accurate representation of both the document and its document history as managed within the repository.