When it comes to compelling arbitration in California, courts often put the moving party to the test. The most recent example is the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Fabian v. Renovate America. Affirming a lower court’s decision, the Court of Appeal held that the defendant failed to meet its burden of proof that an electronically signed contract – one containing a 15-digit alphanumeric verification from DocuSign and the words “Identify Verification Code: ID Verification Complete” – was in fact signed by the plaintiff. Stating that the “burden of authenticating an electronic signature is not great,” the Court of Appeal went on to hold that the defendant had not met its burden as it had failed to submit evidence explaining the DocuSign verification process. The court of appeal acknowledged the acceptance of a DocuSign verified signature in Newton v. Am. Debt Servs (N.D. Cal. 2012) 854 F.Supp.2d 712, but distinguished that case finding that Renovate had not submitted “evidence about the process used to verify Fabian’s electronic signature via DocuSign, including who sent Fabian the Contract, how the Contract was sent to her, how Fabian’s electronic signature was placed on the Contract, who received the signed the [sic] Contract, how the signed Contract was returned to Renovate, and how Fabian’s identification was verified as the person who actually signed the Contract.”
In today’s computerized world, electronic signatures are everywhere. E-commerce depends on electronic signatures – a necessity given the lack of in-person meetings in the cyber world. Authenticating such electronic signatures, however, should not be taken for granted no matter how well recognized the process or acceptance of such signatures is in the business world. Laying a foundation and making a record is still a necessity in court – a reminder to all who rely on electronic signatures to conduct business.