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September 01, 2022

Capacity To Contract: Minors

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Posted in Wisconsin Workers Compensation Related News

In many jurisdictions, minors are considered to not have full capacity to contract. Many jurisdictions might allow minors to have certain excuses for non performance of contracts, consider some contracts that bind minors as entirely unenforceable, or consider contracts voidable with a minor’s discretion. A natural result of these rights possessed by minors means that most companies will require a parent co-signature for many contracts. There is very little business incentive to sell a car to a minor if they can simply cancel the transaction a few months later even after driving the car, and therefore it is rare to see a company or even an individual seller try to sell a car to a minor without a parent providing some type of guarantee.

A famous case that discussed the issues of a minor’s inability to contract is a 1950 case before the Ohio Court of Appeals called “Davis v. Clelland.” In this case, a minor bought a car and subsequently crashed that car into a telephone pole. The minor then tried to cancel the contract and get a refund for the car. The Court ruled in the minor’s favor and claimed that while applying such a doctrine may cause major injustices in individual cases, it can protect vulnerable children overall.

The principle that minors can void their promises while other parties to a contract cannot void their promises creates a situation that makes minors inherently risky to conduct business with. The result is that minor’s have increased dependence on their parents to engage in major contracts such as renting an apartment or buying a car. Some jurisdictions may even allow a minor to choose to void a contract for a transaction in which the other parties had no clue that they were contracting with a minor; the knowledge of the other party regarding the minor’s status as a minor could be entirely irrelevant, and only the objective fact of the minor’s age can allow for the contract to be voidable in some jurisdictions. This in turn incentivizes many businesses to ask for identity documents or age when engaging in certain large transactions.

Minor’s may not always have the right to void a contract, especially in cases where an applicable statute might indicate otherwise. You may want to consult with an experienced contract lawyer in your area to see if your contract is voidable.

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