Can an Electronic Release of Liability uphold as well as a hand signed copy?

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skeeter_ca

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Can an Electronic Release of Liability uphold as well as a hand signed copy? Let me fill in the blanks. I sell aircraft plans for a Non-Profit 501(3)c organization. Currently the purchaser has to hand sign and have notarized the Release of Liability and then sent to me before I will ship the plans. I was thinking about offer the plans through PayPal via our website to make it easier to order the plans. Is there a way to do the release of liability online instead of having to have the hard copy? Does it really make a difference since I am not sure either would really hold up in court?
 

bmcj

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I don't know the answer to that, but in this day of e-commerce, I suspect that electronic signatures probably (now) carry legal weight in our justice system.
 

TFF

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I think electronic signatures might cost too much on your end. Someone has to pay for the security, and I think it is done with subscriptions to services. I know the FAA changed theirs and so users had to re register with the new company. It is a signature so you dont want it stolen; that costs.
 

kent Ashton

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Why not email the buyer a Release From Liability with the terms and stating that the buyer should reply with "accept" or "decline". This is just as binding as the "accept" box you have to check before you can download software. Print out the email reply with all the headers and return path and file it.
 

gtae07

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When I signed releases for Sonex and Van's, I printed, signed, and scanned the paperwork. They took it. The adoption agency we are working with also takes scanned versions like that.
 

Jay Kempf

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Can an Electronic Release of Liability uphold as well as a hand signed copy? Let me fill in the blanks. I sell aircraft plans for a Non-Profit 501(3)c organization. Currently the purchaser has to hand sign and have notarized the Release of Liability and then sent to me before I will ship the plans. I was thinking about offer the plans through PayPal via our website to make it easier to order the plans. Is there a way to do the release of liability online instead of having to have the hard copy? Does it really make a difference since I am not sure either would really hold up in court?
I have a fax to email setup. I print sign and send to my fax any real document like the zillion NDAs I do for clients. The fax goes directly to email as a PDF with a date stamp and I save it locally and forward it on which saves an offsight version as well. Belt and suspenders but it all holds up legally. No one electronic transfer is really fully legal on it's own but email and computer records are being used more and more as part of legal offense and defense strategies and they are holding up as evidence more and more.
 

Topaz

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For my business, I use a company called RightSignature to process e-signatures on my contracts. The other big one is DocuSign, which is extensively used by the real estate industry for the same purpose. Adobe has an arrangement through their Acrobat Pro software that allows certified e-signing of PDF files. All three are subscription services. All three companies assert that their e-signature system is legally binding, and I've never heard a legitimate claim otherwise. I've never had to test it myself, however.

Short of something like Jay Kempf describes, or simply asking your client to print out the contract, sign it, and then scan/e-mail/fax it back to you, I would not try to "roll your own" system. While you might have the web development skills, and the time/motivation to do it, the consequences could be really bad for you if one of your contracts is declared void in court. Stick with one of the major subscription services, and pay for it as a cost of doing business. None of them are terribly expensive.
 

Dana

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Since most liability releases aren't worth the paper they're printed on anyway, I would think doing it electronically even without a signature service ("purchase of these plans constitutes acceptance of the terms, etc., etc.") should be sufficient. If it's good enough for Microsoft...

You could also include the disclaimer (or an abbreviated version referring back to the full version on sheet 1 or whatever) on each sheet of the plans.

Dana
 

skeeter_ca

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Since most liability releases aren't worth the paper they're printed on anyway, I would think doing it electronically even without a signature service ("purchase of these plans constitutes acceptance of the terms, etc., etc.") should be sufficient. If it's good enough for Microsoft...

You could also include the disclaimer (or an abbreviated version referring back to the full version on sheet 1 or whatever) on each sheet of the plans.

Dana
That is what I was thinking.

There are two portions of the release, one is the release of liability and the other is the builder agreement. I like the ideal of printing it on the plans, at least the first page and refer back to that on every sheet. It might be a deterrent for bootleggers (maybe not). Maybe also have them jump through some hoops before they get to the order page. I like the email ideal also. Nice and simple. Or maybe a combination of all of the above. Still undecided on best way for me to do it.

skeeter
 

skeeter_ca

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Does notarized copies really make a difference? I am doing it that way currently because that is the way it was done before for me. I am looking for a better way to make it easier for the customer and me.

skeeter
 

Himat

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Can an Electronic Release of Liability uphold as well as a hand signed copy? Let me fill in the blanks. I sell aircraft plans for a Non-Profit 501(3)c organization. Currently the purchaser has to hand sign and have notarized the Release of Liability and then sent to me before I will ship the plans. I was thinking about offer the plans through PayPal via our website to make it easier to order the plans. Is there a way to do the release of liability online instead of having to have the hard copy? Does it really make a difference since I am not sure either would really hold up in court?
Looking at this issue from a distance, both geographical and legal, I see that what is a problem some places are a no issue others. In Norway the juridical tradition is that a spoken agreement is as strong as a written one. Ok, to afterwards prove what was sais is more difficult with the spoken one, but that is a different matter. Because of the tradition with spoken agreements, a agreement in electronic form stand as strong as a written one.
 

bmcj

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Does notarized copies really make a difference? I am doing it that way currently because that is the way it was done before for me. I am looking for a better way to make it easier for the customer and me.

skeeter
Having a signature notarized is just a legal means to verify that it is your signature and not someone else signing your name. I suspect that e-signing services have enough security to them that it carries a legal weight somewhere between a signed document and a notarized document... probably closer to a notarized document.
 

Himat

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Having a signature notarized is just a legal means to verify that it is your signature and not someone else signing your name. I suspect that e-signing services have enough security to them that it carries a legal weight somewhere between a signed document and a notarized document... probably closer to a notarized document.
I have not used PayPal, but if an account is set up in someone's name and used to pay for a set of plans, is not that a rather good verification of identity?
If the payment is traceable, I would think that is a rather solid authorization of identity.
 

skeeter_ca

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I have not used PayPal, but if an account is set up in someone's name and used to pay for a set of plans, is not that a rather good verification of identity?
If the payment is traceable, I would think that is a rather solid authorization of identity.
Good point!
 

fredoyster

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A release of liability only covers the person you sold the plans to, not his heirs, employer or anyone else who can claim they were injured by your negligence.
 

PW_Plack

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A release of liability only covers the person you sold the plans to, not his heirs, employer or anyone else...
I know one commercial helicopter pilot who's pre-flight waiver includes a pledge by the passenger to accept defense of any tort action as a liability of his estate. In other words, his widow can sue, but in effect she'd have to pay legals costs and even any settlement from the estate.

I don't know if this would hold up, but it's a fascinating approach to this problem. The document does not claim to limit anyone's right to sue, but it sure removes an incentive.

As for electronic signatures, I suspect the same mechanism by which websites require you to agree to their terms of service with a checkbox, or some order forms require you to acknowledge statements before moving on, would carry legal weight.
 

Riggerrob

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Since most liability releases aren't worth the paper .....

......................................................

Liability releases discourage frivolous lawsuits.
Frivolous lawsuits can cause more psychological and financial damage (to the wounded) than the original accident.
The majority of accidents - involving plans-built airplanes - start with deviating from the plans or pilot-error. The plans-seller is innocent on both counts ... then the legal debate devolves to "who has the deepest pockets?"
Sadly, watching lawyers squabble over the last scraps of rotting carcus is never a pretty picture!
Sigh!
 

fly2kads

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I missed this thread when it was first started! Skeeter, I don't know what, if anything, you've decided to do in the interim. I can't help you with the liability waiver itself, but I can help a bit with the electronic signatures. I am the project manager on a software development team that implements electronic signature functionality for use in my employer's various software applications. I deal with this stuff every day.

To answer your original question, yes, electronic signatures do carry the equivalent legal weight of a traditional "wet" signature. There is a federal law that governs this called the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (ESIGN). Additionally, many states have also passed a version of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). These laws establish the legality of electronic signatures and set forth criteria for what constitutes a legally valid electronic signature. DocuSign, one of the vendors Topaz mentioned (and the firm my company utilizes, for full disclosure) has a nice summary of the basic requirements here:
https://www.docusign.com/esign-act-and-ueta

I second Topaz's recommendation to use an established vendor, as they have spent a considerable amount of time and money creating services that are compliant with the laws. These vendors typically have tools that let you tag a document for eSignature or set up a template for documents you use often. You can then generate an email to your customer that gives them a link to open up the document and sign it. There is usually a monthly subscription fee for these services.

As other posters noted, the other commonly used method of obtaining an electronic consent is simply the checkbox that says "I agree." This is generically referred to as a "Click to Agree" model. This also works, but to be legally binding, you still need to meet the criteria laid out in the ESIGN and UETA acts. It works best in situations where the signer is already logged into your web site, so you have already authenticated them as a known user.

This may be a day late and a dollar short, but I'd be happy to answer questions if you are still figuring out what to do.
 
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