This section is from the book "The Law Of Contracts", by William Herbert Page. Also available from Amazon: Commercial Contracts: A Practical Guide to Deals, Contracts, Agreements and Promises.
Before discussing the modern rule, it must be noticed that the old rule just given is not obsolete everywhere. It still persists in obiters.1 The English courts still apply the test regularly in contracts for work and labor.2 Thus, a contract by which an infant, in consideration of a special rate of fare agrees not to hold the railroad for its negligence is so manifestly prejudicial as to be not binding ;3 and an apprenticeship deed containing a provision that the master was not to pay wages to the apprentice or to instruct him or teach him while his business was interrupted by "turn-outs" including lock-outs, was so much to the detriment of the infant as to be unenforceable.4 On the other hand, an agreement by an infant employee to accept a certain sum from a mutual insurance society in lieu of damages,5 and a promise by an infant that in consideration of employment he will not compete in business with the employer within a distance of five miles, and for a period of two years after the termination of the employment, are both for the benefit of the infant and enforceable.6 The English courts have intimated that this rule is not limited to labor contracts.7 Some American
1 Askey v. Williams, 74 Tex. 294; 5 L. R. A. 176; 11 S. W. 1101.
2 Reg. v. Lord, 12 Q. B. 757; Fellows v. Wood. 50 L. T. (N. S.) 513; Meakin v. Morris. 12 Q. B. D. 352; Evans v. Ware (1892). 3 Ch. 502; Corn v. Matthews (1893), 1 Q. B. 310; Flower v. Ry. Co. (1894), 2 Q. B. 65; Clements v. Ry. Co. (1894), 2 Q. B. 482. The test of the validity of such a contract is said to be "whether on the true construction of the contract as a whole it was for his advantage. ... If it was for his advantage it was not a voidable contract but one binding on him, which he had no right to repudiate." Clements v. Ry. Co. (1894), 2 Q. B. 482. 489.
3 Flower v. Ry. Co. (1894), 2 Q. B. 65.
4 Corn v. Matthews (1893), 1 Q. B. 310.
5 Clements v. Ry. Co. (1894), 2 Q. B. 482.
6 Evans v. Ware (1892), 3 Ch. 502.
7 "I will not attempt to say how states still hold to the original rule, in its literal application.8 Thus a deed from an infant without consideration was held void as being prejudicial; and so a covenant of seizin in a deed by the infant's grantee to another was broken as soon as made.9 So a gratuitous release by an infant to a witness to restore his competency was held void, and of no effect on such competency.10