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The burden of authenticating an electronic signature is not great. Civ. Code, § 1633.9, subd. (a); Evid. Code, § 1400, subd. (a). The party seeking authentication may carry its burden in any manner, including by presenting evidence of the contents of the contract in question and the circumstances surrounding the contract's execution. Under the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 7001 et seq., electronic records and signatures in compliance with the Act are legally binding.
Plaintiff Rosa Fabian filed a complaint against defendant Renovate America Inc., alleging that the solar panels she purchased for her home were improperly installed. The plaintiff alleged that, in early 2017, the defendant made an unsolicited telephone call to her home about financing the solar panels and signed her name on a financial agreement. All communications between the parties’ representatives occurred telephonically and she was never presented with any documents to sign. Plaintiff claimed that she did not sign a financial agreement with the defendant; nevertheless, the defendant incorporated the solar panel payments set forth in the financial agreement into her mortgage loan payments. Thus, she alleged that defendant violated the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (Civ. Code, § 1750 et seq.), the Unfair Competition Law (Bus. & Prof. Code, § 17200 et seq.), and the Contract Translation Act (Civ. Code, § 1632). Defendant filed a petition to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claims and stay judicial proceedings pending arbitration, supported by an Assessment Contract that the defendant claimed the plaintiff had signed electronically. After trial, the court ordered the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration be denied as the defendant failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff electronically signed the subject contract. Defendant appealed.
Was the trial court correct in holding that defendant failed to establish by preponderance evidence that the plaintiff signed the contract electronically?
The court affirmed the order and held that the trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s petition to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claims related to the financing and installation of a solar energy system in the plaintiff’s home because the defendant failed to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the plaintiff had electronically signed the subject contract. Adding to the fact that defendant failed to show the contract bearing the plaintiff’s printed electronic initials and signature that was authenticated by a company used to electronically sign documents in compliance with the U.S. Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, since it did not provide any evidence from or about that company in its petition, reply, or supplemental declaration, and given that its corporate officer did not state anywhere in his supporting declaration that the plaintiff actually signed the contract, electronically or otherwise.