Can You Contract With a Child?
A teenager, 17 years old, drives herself to your stable and expresses an interest in buying or leasing one of your horses. She is old enough to drive a car, but is she old enough to enter into a contract with you?
The answer is no. Unless she has reached the age of majority in the applicable state, she does not have the legal capacity to enter into a contract with you.
In most states around the country, the age of majority is 18, but some exceptions exist in states such as Alabama, Mississippi, Nebraska, and Puerto Rico, which have higher ages of majority (but always check your state’s law).
When a party to a contract is not of proper age, and unless the contract is for true “necessities,” the contract is voidable. Over the years, stables have learned this the hard way. In a 1997 Florida case, for example, a riding stable allowed a 13 year-old child to sign its “Release and Assumption of Risk” form and thereafter ride a horse rented from the stable. The child was injured during the ride and sued; her lawsuit claimed that the stable was negligent. Evaluating the facts, a Florida appellate court held that the minor child was not bound by the release she signed. In doing so, the court stated: “Except as to a very limited class of contracts considered binding, as for necessities, etc., the modern rule is that the contract of an infant is voidable rather than void. This rule applies to both executed and executory contracts, but with different application of the word voidable. To say that the executed contract of an infant is voidable means that it is binding until it is avoided by some act indicating that the party refuses longer to be bound by it.” When the 14 year-old filed suit, the court held, she disavowed the contract and made clear that she no longer intended to be bound by it. Her lawsuit could proceed.
The case was: Dilallo v. Riding Safely, Inc., 687 So.2d 353 (Fla. App. 1997). It also cited a Georgia case, Smoky, Inc. v. McCray, 396 S.E.2d 794 (Ga. App. 1990), which held that a riding stable’s release was voidable because it was signed only by a 14 year-old girl.
If someone under the age of majority wants to transact business with you, such as buy or lease a horse or sign up for riding lessons, keep the following in mind:
- Make sure that he or she is of legal age in your state if you expect him or her to sign contracts, including releases.
- If he or she claims to be of legal age, consider demanding proof (such as a valid driver’s license).
- If the person is not of legal age based on your state’s law, make sure to enter into the contract instead with his or her parent or legally appointed guardian.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Julie Fershtman is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, three books, and has lectured at seminars, conventions, and conferences in 29 states on issues involving law, liability, risk management, and insurance. For more information, please also visit www.fershtmanlaw.com and www.equinelaw.net, and www.equinelaw.info.View All Posts by Author ›
Our Equine law blog (and its author) in the news!
Julie Fershtman, author of our popular and prolific Equine Law Blog, was interviewed this week by the State Bar of Michigan. The interview, which called Fershtman "Lawyer-Blogger," discussed our Equine Law Blog. We truly believe that this blog is the nation's most active blog serving the equine industry on equine law topics, and we thank you for visiting it. Read more here.
Honors & Recognitions
Congratulations, Julie! We're proud to share that Julie Fershtman has received two prestigious awards.
On April 13, 2013, she received the American Youth Horse Council's 2013 "Distinguished Service" Award. As the award itself states, she received it "[i]n recognition of years of dedicated service to the American Youth Horse Council and tireless efforts to touch the lives of youth involved with horses." For more information about the American Youth Horse Council, please visit www.ayhc.com/.
On May 7, 2013, Julie received the 2013 "Industry Award" from the Michigan Equine Partnership for her work over the years supporting legislation to promote and protect the Michigan equine industry. For more information about the Michigan Equine Partnership, please visit www.miequine.com/.
RECENT EQUINE LAW COURTROOM VICTORY
We're pleased to share that Julie just won a case in Michigan where she defended a boarding and training stable that was sued by a visitor who was injured in the barn aisle. Julie cautions that this case might have been avoided altogether if the stable required every visitor to sign its waiver/release of liability. (Julie, interestingly, drafted that stable's release document years ago but the stable only presented it to customers.) Make sure that your release is well-worded and complies with the laws of your state.
"The Seller's Contract Includes an "As Is" Disclaimer – Now What?" - Desert Mirage Magazine, August 2013
Win Equine law Books!
We're always on the lookout for good article and update ideas for the Equine Law Blog. Please share yours! We'll give the sender of best tip of the month a free copy of Julie Fershtman's books, EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE and MORE EQUINE LAW & HORSE SENSE. Click here to send your ideas. [For more info on these and other publications written by Julie Fershtman, please visit www.equinelaw.net and www.equinelaw.info or call her directly at (248) 785-4731.]
Large Step Forward for the Horse Industry
We applaud the American Horse Council (www.horsecouncil.org) for its national marketing initiative for the horse industry. The AHC joined together ten national associations and large corporate industry stakeholders to make this happen. We await its marketing plan, which will propose ways to help people become more interested in horses and equine activities, either as participants or spectators.
THE NATION'S MOST SOUGHT-AFTER EQUINE LAW SPEAKER
Did you know Julie Fershtman has spoken at the American Horse Council Annual Meeting, Equine Affaire, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) Annual Meeting, American Morgan Horse Association Annual Meeting, American Paint Horse Association Annual Meeting, US Pony Clubs, Inc.'s Annual Meeting, All-American Quarter Horse Congress, American Youth Horse Council Annual Meeting, American Riding Instructors Association Annual Meeting, CHA Annual Meeting, and numerous others? Consider signing her up for your convention. Contact Julie.
Follow Us on Twitter!
Follow us for updates regarding news, cases, disputes, and issues regarding Equine Law. @horselawyers