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Rosenfeld v. Zerneck

Supreme Court of New York, Kings County

May 4, 2004, Decided

INDEX NO. 7600/04

Opinion

 [*193]  [**459]   Herbert Kramer, J.

 [*194]  A great deal can be accomplished over the Internet: A few well placed keystrokes can send us to exotic places, requisition goods and services, find employment and educate us. Is it possible to make a contract for the sale of real property via e-mail?

Defendant moves for summary judgment dismissing a complaint that seeks specific performance of the contract for the sale of the defendant's home. Defendant argues that the e-mail he sent was merely preliminary and was never intended as the consummate agreement which, he argues, required further discussion. Accordingly, defendant claims that this e-mail did not satisfy the statute of frauds. Although as will be discussed below, the "signature" on the e-mail is valid under our general [***2]  statute of frauds, the e-mail messages that were exchanged in the instant matter did not create a binding agreement as they lacked a vital term.

After viewing the property, plaintiffs informed the defendant that they "loved the house" and offered a $ 3,500,000 cash deal. They followed up with an e-mail to the defendant. 1 

Shortly thereafter, defendant and plaintiff had a telephone conversation. Defendant followed up with the following e-mail that is at [***3]  the heart of this controversy: 2 

"Dear Tom & Debbie,

"This note is to confirm yesterday's telephone conversation in which I accepted your all cash offer of $ 3,525,000 for 18 PPW, with no contingencies for financing or sale of your present residence, to close no later than July 1, 2004.

"As we discussed, please contact Liz early next week to schedule your inspection. My [**460]  attorney will prepare a contract of sale, to be signed after your engineer's report. (What is the contact information for your attorney? Will you be making the purchase jointly? What is your present address?)

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4 Misc. 3d 193 *; 776 N.Y.S.2d 458 **; 2004 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 497 ***

Tommy Rosenfeld et al., Plaintiffs, v. Michael Zerneck, Also Known as Michael Von Zerneck, Defendant.

CORE TERMS

e-mail, statute of frauds, fax, general statute, authenticate, subscription, transmitted, electronic, sender's

Real Property Law, Deeds, Defenses Against Deed Enforcement, Statute of Frauds