Necessaries are advantages supplied to a person under age which are requisite to his physical well-being, and common school education, and with which he is not already supplied by parent or guardian, and which are suitable to his station in life.
(a) Kind of advantages that may constitute necessaries.
A comprehensive definition of necessaries in general terms is difficult. The term does not signify that a thing be absolutely indispensable to the physical well-being of the minor. It is not necessary that he be saved from actual hunger or exposure.6 Yet it can never be a mere luxury. A necessary will fall under some such head as food, lodging, apparel, medicine and surgery (or other health requirement), academic instruction and working tools when the minor makes his own living. These headings are not absolutely exhaustive, yet they are nearly so. Let us further consider each of them.
Medicine and Surgery (or Other Health Requirement). Under this heading things which would not ordinarily be necessaries may be so considered.
6. Strong v. Foote, 42 Conn. 203.
Example 4. A physician orders horse riding as a means of health for a minor in comfortable circumstances. The minor is liable for the purchase of the horse bought for this purpose.7
Example 5. A dentist renders dental services to a minor and sends a reasonable bill. The minor must pay.8
Academic Instruction. A common school education is classed as necessary and so is an education for a trade.
Example 6. "A" learns the trade of pattern making and promises to pay his instructor a sum of money for teaching him. He is liable on his contract.9
A college education has been held, however, not to be a necessary.10 This is a rule of doubtful wisdom.
Working Tools. To a minor in trade, working tools are properly classed as necessaries, but even if making his own living, his purchase of a business is voidable, as he therefore risks his fortune.
Example 7. A minor who has learned the trade of a barber, buys a barber-shop business including the usual fixtures and supplies. He may avoid the contract if he wishes; but he would be liable if he purchased the usual number of implements necessary to enable him to pursue his trade.11
7. McKanna v. Merry, 61 111. 177.
8. Strong v. Foote, 42 Conn. 203.
9. Pardey v. Amer. Ship Windlass Co., 20 R. I. 147.
10. Middlebury Coll. v. Chandler, 16 Vt. 683.
11. Ryan v. Smith, 165 Miss. 303.
(b) Station in life as factor.
The station in life of the minor involved is an item in determining whether the article in question is necessary. What is necessary to the son of a millionaire may not be necessary to a boy whose family are in poor circumstances. And yet, in any case, the thing supplied must not be a mere luxury. "Suppose the son of the richest man in the kingdom to be supplied with diamonds and race horses." 12 These could not be considered necessaries. So it has been held that expensive suppers given by a wealthy young man to his friends, could not be considered necessaries. So an automobile or bicycle could not constitute a necessary except under very peculiar circumstances. For, no matter what one's station in life, or how highly pampered its occupant has been, a thing is not a necessary unless referable to some such heading as indicated. The position of the youth is to be taken into account more to determine upon the grade of a thing ordered, than the kind of a thing ordered. The son of the poor man and the son of the rich man both need overcoats, if not supplied. But the former cannot bind himself to pay for such an expensive one as the latter; but neither the son of a rich man nor the son of a poor man needs automobiles, race horses, club memberships, theater tickets, etc.
(c) Minor already supplied.
Suppose that the needs of the minor are already abundantly supplied, is that which he purchases necessary? If so, how is the merchant to know and to protect himself? The rule is that in determining whether a thing supplied is a necessary, the actual needs of the minor with respect to that class of necessaries, must be considered, and if he already has a sufficient supply, the thing in question is not a necessary. The person dealing with the minor must take the risk.
12. Wharton v. McKenzie, 5 Q. B. 606.
Example 8. Nash, a tailor, supplied Inman, a freshman at college and a minor, during his school year with a quantity of clothes, including eleven fancy waistcoats. Inman was already adequately supplied with clothing according to his station in life. Held, Nash could not maintain a suit for the price.13
(d) Necessaries must be actually supplied.
The minor is not liable upon his executory contract for necessaries.
Example p. A minor, being in college, rents a room for the entire school year. He gives up the room after a short time and the owner cannot rent it for the balance of the year. Held, that the minor is not liable, conceding that if he had occupied the room, he would have been liable.14
A minor has the right to disaffirm any contract except for necessaries made by him during minority, at any time during minority and at any time after majority unless he has ratified after majority. An exception is of his deeds to real estate which he can disaffirm only after attaining his majority. Upon disaffirmance he must restore what he has received if he still has it; but his right to disaffirm is not barred by his inability to place the other party in statu quo. If, after becoming of age, he ratifies a contract made during his minority, it becomes binding, upon him.
13. Nash v. Inman (1908), 2 K. B. 1.
14. Gregory v. Lee, 64 Conn. 407.
(a) Right to disaffirm.
We have seen that contracts made during minority are voidable, unless they are for necessaries actually supplied. In this Section we will discuss the rules governing disaffirmance.
(b) Time of disaffirmance.
A contract, whether executed or executory, may be disaffirmed by a minor at any time during minority; and may be disaffirmed at any time after majority unless, and until the minor ratifies after majority. His deeds to real estate, however, he cannot disaffirm until he arrives at age. See below for further discussion.
The rule is that a minor can disaffirm any voidable contract, whether executed or executory upon giving back the benefits received thereunder if he still has them, but the fact that such benefits are injured, lessened or gone, through willful dissipation, negligence or accident, does not destroy the minor's right to disaffirm.15
Example 10. Hauser brought a suit against the Marmon Company to recover back $450.00 paid by him while a minor, on a $600.00 automobile. The automobile has been used by Hauser and has deteriorated in value. Held, that upon restoration of the machine, the plaintiff can recover the $450.00.16
15. Wuller v. Chuse Groc. Co., 241 111. 308.
(d) Disaffirmance of minor's deeds to real estate.
The minor cannot disaffirm his deeds to real estate until after he becomes of age, and then he must disaffirm them within a reasonable time by some overt act of equal dignity with his deed, as by bringing suit, or deeding to another, or by making entry. In some states the time is made specific by Statute, as, say, three years.
A minor cannot ratify during minority. After attaining his majority, he may ratify expressly or by his acts. His mere failure to disaffirm is not in itself ratification unless he is dealing with the benefits of the contract. If he still has benefits under the contract, he cannot retain them, yet he has a reasonable time to disaffirm. Upon ratification, the contract becomes absolutely binding upon him, that is, his right to disaffirm has gone forever.
Example 11. A minor enters into a contract to purchase land, paying $1,000.00 cash, balance in installments. He made several payments before coming of age. He became of age in October, and made a payment in November and another in December. He then hired a lawyer and tendered back the contract and a quit claim deed and demanded his money back. Held, that the contract, While voidable by him, before or after age, had been ratified by his payments made under it and thereby became binding.17
16. Hauser v. Marmon Co., 208 111. App. 171.