Are Email Disclaimers Meaningless?

December 29, 2015

How much legal weight does that disclaimer at the end of an email from my accountant/insurance advisor really carry? If I were to receive something in error and do something unsavory, but not necessarily illegal in and of itself, with it can they really hold me responsible or get me in trouble?

How much legal weight? None, practically speaking.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again: The reason that this answer isn’t phrased as an absolute is because it shouldn’t be. Like the world around you, the law isn’t black and white, nor is it devoid of nuance and critical thinking. We’ll need both to flesh out an explanation to the answer above.

Email disclaimers typically try to cover confidentiality and a lot of other things.Depending on the type of business, they may include a kitchen sink worth of other words, too. The Wall Street Journal reported that one investment bank’s email disclaimer contained 2,578 words, clearly the result of the ultimate linguistic lawyergasm. That’s about 150 more words than are in the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Gettysburg address, and the lyrics of “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, combined.

Read the rest of the column here at Deadspin.

Illustration by Jim Cooke.

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