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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.

Conclusion

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.

Categories: Liability, Sales/Disputes

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is considered to be one of the nation's leading attorneys in the field of equine law. She has successfully tried equine cases before juries in four states. A frequent author and speaker on legal issues, she has written over 400 published articles, four 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.

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Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Wins Fourth National Award

Julie Fershtman’s latest book, Equine Law and Horse Sense, won its fourth national award on May 31, 2021. It was selected to receive a "Finalist" Medal in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. 

The 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards are presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, which is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. Here’s a link for the complete list of 2021 winners and finalists: https://www.indiebookawards.com/winners.php?year=2021 

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Third National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

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In 2022, Julie Fershtman is scheduled to be a speaker on equine liability at these conventions:

Fershtman’s Equine Law Book Receives Second National Award

Julie Fershtman’s book, Equine Law & Horse Sense, published by the American Bar Association, has been selected to receive a 2020 NYC Big Book Award in the category of “Reference” books.

The NYC Big Book Awards draws nominations world-wide. This is the third award for Fershtman’s book since its publication last year. Here is a link for more information, and to see the list of winners: https://www.nycbigbookaward.com/2020winners

Information on the book: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/164105493X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0

Honors & Recognitions

Equine lawyer, Julie Fershtman, has received these prestigious equine industry awards from respected equine organizations:

"Excellence in the Advancement of Animal Law Award" - American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Law Section Animal Law Committee

"Distinguished Service Award" - American Youth Horse Council

"Industry Service Award" - Michigan Equine Partnership

"Catalyst Award"- Michigan Horse Council

"Outstanding Achievement Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Partner in Safety Award" - American Riding Instructors Association 

"Associate Service Award" - United Professional Horseman's Association

"National Partnership in Safety" Award" - Certified Horsemanship Association 

Some of our Equine Law Services

Handling breach of contract, fraud/ misrepresentation, commercial code, and other claims involving equine-related transactions including purchases/sales, leases, mare leases/foal transfers, and partnerships.

Litigating a wide variety of equine-related disputes in court or through alternative dispute resolution (arbitration, mediation, facilitation).

Defending equine/farm/equestrian industry professionals,  businesses, and associations in personal injury claims and lawsuits.

Drafting and negotiating contracts for boarding, training, sales, waivers/releases, leases, and numerous other equine-related transactions.

Representing and advising insurers on  coverage and policy language as well as litigation;

Advising equine industry clubs and associations regarding management, rules, bylaws, disputes, and regulations.

Representing some of the equine industry's top trainers, competitors, stables, and associations.

Counseling industry professionals, stable managers, and individual horse owners. 

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, US Hunter/Jumper Association Annual Meeting, Midwest Horse Fair, Equitana USA, US Dressage Federation Annual Meeting, North American Riding for the Handicapped (now PATH International) 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 directly.

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