Emails can form binding contracts

Emails can form binding contractsIn the 21st Century, email has become an important means of communication and, in fact, almost essential for effectively conducting any business; but the apparent informality of the medium can often give the misguided impression that it is somehow of lesser legal significance. A recent decision of the Brisbane Supreme Court underscores the importance of ensuring that all email communication is carefully crafted and well considered because emails themselves can be sufficient evidence in writing of an agreement, to satisfy the legal requirements of the Property Law Act.

In the case before Justice Martin, Stellard v. New Queensland Fuel Pty Ltd, the parties had been negotiating for the sale and purchase of a service station and site. The negotiations resulted in an email being sent by the proposed purchaser which made an offer which was said to be “subject to contract and due diligence as previously discussed”. The proposed sellers’ representative responded by email saying ‘we accept the below offer which we understand will be subject to execution of the contract provided”.

Later, when the seller had a change of heart, a dispute arose as to whether, in the absence of a signed contract, there was in fact a valid and binding contract which was sufficient to satisfy the relevant statute of frauds. The statute is legislation which requires a contract for the sale of an interest in land to be in writing and signed by the parties, unless a rare exception applies.

In his decision, Justice Martin considered the Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001 and applied it to the facts and circumstances and found that the email exchange was sufficient to satisfy the legal requirements and that a contract had been formed.

For those of us who use email regularly in the course of our business activities, the lesson is simple. Emails must be carefully considered, appropriately structured and should fully and properly articulate your position so that there can be no misunderstanding. If an important subject matter is the subject of the exchange, perhaps it is best to not hit send until it has been proof read a couple of times!

Travis Schultz
Practice Group Leader
STOLaw, Part of the Slater and Gordon Group
Ph: (07) 5413 8900
Fax: (07) 5413 8958

New Laws Surrounding Surrogacy in Thailand

'New Laws Surrounding Surrogacy in Thailand' The controversy over baby Gammy has headlined the news for the past couple of weeks. The Farnell family were accused by surrogate mother, Pattaramon Chanbua, for abandoning baby Gammy, who has Down syndrome, and only taking his healthy twin sister back to Australia.  However, David and Wendy have said they didn’t abandon Gammy because of his disability, but they were told Gammy had a heart condition and would die soon.

Since then, numerous reports have come about regarding David Farnell’s conviction as a child sex offender in the 1990s. David’s daughter, Jane, has defended her father stating that “he is a reformed man and a good parent”.

The scandal has now sparked debate over commercial surrogacy in Thailand and the toughening of Laws in Australia.

On Thursday, two couples who had surrogate babies were stopped by immigration officials at Bangkok International Airport and were not allowed to leave the country. The Australian Embassy in Bangkok have been advised by Thai immigration authorities that “parents will require an order of the court confirming the birth mother has given up her rights to custody of the child.” In response a spokesman for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said “We strongly urge Australians entering Thailand for the purposes of commercial surrogacy to seek independent legal advice in both Thailand and Australia before doing so”.

Our Australian laws on surrogacy are well thought out and considerate of all involved to ensure the transitioning process is seamless.  This means the debacle that occurred in Thailand cannot be duplicated here as the contractual obligations of all parties who carry out surrogacy in Australia are very clear and understood by all.  If you are considering surrogacy, then we recommend you firstly understand all parties legal rights and seek advice from an Accredited Family Law Specialist should be the first step in this very fragile area of law.

Contact our Family Law department today: 1300 STOLAW or visit