1501 4TH AVE, SUITE 2800, SEAT TLE, WA 98101 PH. 206.624.6800 / INFO@PWRLK.COM
Medical Malpractice / Personal Injury /
Construction Accidents / Insurance Bad Faith
Felix Gavi Luna, J.D.
PAR TNER, P WRLK
UW SCHOOL OF LAW, 1997
Trial advocate. Teacher. Community leader.
NEVER BE AFRAID TO RAISE YOUR
VOICE FOR HONESTY, TRUTH AND
COMPASSION AGAINST INJUSTICE.
to log into a secure site. The employer’s
computer system used these unique identifiers to create a form that was marked
with an electronic signature acknowledging receipt of a set of documents
distributed to all new employees and
kept in the employee’s file — the Social
Security Administration uses a similar
program to allow online benefits enrollment. The court in Neuson noted that the
specifics of the case satisfied the WEAA’s
definition of an electronic signature. The
court, however, could not accept as valid
the electronic signature thus created
because the employer also had access to
the employee’s identifying information.
The forms submitted and verified with
an electronic signature relying on information possessed by both parties could
have been completed by either party.
“We do not find evidence of how or why
the information contained in this electronic signature would be unavailable to
anyone other than Ms. Neuson, and ultimately why it was the same or better than
a traditional signature.” 8 The court ruled
that an electronic signature was therefore not sufficient proof that the plaintiff
had received information about a binding arbitration clause in the company’s
policy, and so the employee’s electronic
signature could not be used as evidence
of consent to that clause.
It is clear from this case that Washington’s statutory construction and case
law leave attorneys, consumers, and businesses grappling with the issues posed by
electronic signatures, even as electronic
transactions requiring electronic signatures become an increasingly common
and important part of day-to-day life.
The UETA, ESIGN, and the
Law of Electronic Signatures
In the late 1990s, the Uniform Law Com-
mission and other states took a neutral
approach to technology when legislat-
ing in the field of electronic signatures.
This approach differed from that of
Washington and Utah, which adopted
the first statute in this field in 1994 and
also incorporated only digital signatures.
The UETA was promulgated in 1999 by
the Uniform Law Commission as a com-
prehensive national effort to address the
issues raised by e-commerce and has
been adopted by 47 states. UETA applies
only to transactions that the parties have
agreed to conduct electronically. The
terms of the UETA govern by default
in the absence of other agreement or
waiver. 9 The act mostly governs trans-
actions that are not covered by the Uni-
form Commercial Code, except for UCC
Articles 2 and 2A. UETA does not apply
to wills, codicils, or testamentary trusts.
If a state has enacted UETA, the state’s
laws on consumer protection and other
areas affecting e-commerce will not be
preempted. Legislators working on the
issue at the time for the never-adopted
Millennium Digital Commerce Act chose
a technology-neutral approach. Discus-
sions of this act reveal an intent to en-
courage all states to adopt the UETA in
order to create a consistent framework of
laws as electronic commerce dramatical-
ly extended the number of transactions
occurring between and among states.
The purpose of UETA is to enforce
the validity of electronic transactions
conducted via computer, telephone, or
other means. UETA treats electronic sig-