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Does email count as a legal agreement?

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?California

I have been trying to collect money owed to me by two brothers who were my roommates at an apartment unit. When I initially moved out a year and a half ago, the one on the lease(whom I will call Bill) said he would take responsibility in paying off a combined balance for both him and his brother(whom I will call Bob). Bill finally agreed to an amount via email, but is now claiming that Bob, who isn't on the lease is the one that owes the entire balance. Bill explained that Bob would be paying $50 monthly payments starting September until Bob received his tax refund check next year to pay off the entire balance of $1200. So far however, I have not received a single payment. Apparently, Bill has been making the decisions for the both of them even though he is claiming that the balance owed is no longer his, but his brother Bob's. Can I sue the both of them even if one is not on the lease and will that email with Bill confirming the amount be considered a legal agreement? I would really appreciate some advice as I really need to take this matter to small claims court ASAP.Thanks!What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?


Senior Member
Q. Can I sue the both of them even if one is not on the lease?
A. You can, but you incur the cost of serving both, and you run the risk that the court will dismiss the “non-lease” brother. If he has responded and defended, you run the risk of him then seeking costs of defense from you. There is no way to say with certainty that the court would find both liable on the facts posted.

Q. Will that email with Bill confirming the amount be considered a legal agreement?
A. It shouldn’t be, but go ahead and use it anyway. There are strict rules for the use of electronic evidence and you won’t satisfy them in SC court. However, SC court is liberal, relaxed and informal in its application of procedural and evidentiary rules. The judge is likely to review the email and give it what value he/she thinks it deserves. If Bill admits the terms of the email, you’re probably home free. If he denies that he sent it, it and the lease agreement are still the only documentary evidence that you have and you use what you have.

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