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.
In some cases the courts have said that an infant's contract for necessaries is absolutely valid and binding;1 and in others, they have gone to the opposite extreme and held that an infant could not be held on his contract for necessaries at all, but only on his legal liability to pay for them.2 Both of these forms of expression are largely obiter and the true rule which is supported by the great weight of authority is that an infant's contract for necessaries received by him may be the foundation of an action but that it differs from a valid contract of the ordinary type in that only the reasonable value of the necessaries furnished and not the price contracted for, may be recovered.3 Thus, an agreement by a minor employee that his employer shall pay all his wages to dealers who supplied the family with which such minor boarded, is enforceable only to the extent of a reasonable support for such minor; and he can recover the excess of his wages above such support.4 Thus, while a minor may repudiate a contract with his attorneys to pay half the sum recovered, he cannot refuse a reasonable compensation.5 The right of a minor to refuse to pay an unreasonable contract price is especially true where an unfair advantage was taken of him by false representations as to the value of the goods.6 The liability of the minor, furthermore "does not seem to arise out of a contract in the legal sense of that term, but out of a transaction of a quasi-contractual nature; for it may be imposed upon an infant too young to understand the nature of a contract at all;"7 and accordingly an infant may be held for necessaries in the absence of any express contract.8 As a corollary, it follows that an executory contract for necessaries - that is for necessaries not yet received by the infant - has none of the peculiarities of an executed contract for necessaries, but is voidable like the ordinary contract of an infant.9 The liability of an infant for necessaries is one created by the law for the good of the infant; since if he could not bind himself in any way for necessaries, a minor though owning property would be left to the charities of those who would, in reliance solely on his honor, provide him with the means of living.10
Quick, 9 Wend. (N. Y.) 238; Cole v. Seeley, 25 Vt. 220; 60 Am. Dec. 258.
1 Fridge v. State, 3 Gill & J. (Md.) 103; 20 Am. Dec. 463.
2 In re Soltykoff (1891) 1 Q. B. 413; Bliss v. Perryiman, 1 Scam. (2 111.) 484; Ayers v. Burns, 87 Ind. 245; 44 Am. Rep. 759; Beeler v. Young, 1 Bibb. (Ky.) 519.
3 Walter v. Everard (1891), 2 Q. B. 369; Barnes v. Barnes, 50 Conn. 572; Burton v. Willin, 6 Houst. (Del.) 522; 22 Am. St. Rep. 363; Hunt v. Thompson, 4 111. 179; 36 Am. Dec. 538; Price v. Sanders, 60 Ind. 310; Kilgore v. Rich, 83 Me. 305; 23 Am. St. Rep. 780; 12 L. R. A. 859; 22 Atl. 176; Trainer v. Trumbull. 141 Mass. 527; 6 N. E. 761; Earle v. Reed. 10 Met. (Mass.) 387; Stone v. Dennison, 13 Pick. (Mass.) 1; 23 Am. Dec. 654; Welch v. Olmstead, 90 Mich. 492; 51 N. W.
541; Epperson v. Nugent, 57 Miss. 45; 34 Am. Rep. 434; Locke v. Smith, 41 N. H. 346; Pardey v. Windlass Co., 20 R. I. 147; 78 Am. St. Rep. 844; 37 Atl. 706; Genereux v. Sibley, 18 R. I. 43; 25 Atl. 345; Rainwater v. Durham; 2 Nott. & McC. (S. C.) 524; 10 Am. Dec. 637; Askey v. Williams, 74 Tex. 294; 5 L. R. A. 176; 11 S. W. 1101; Smith v. Crohn (Tex. Civ. App.), 37 S. W. 469. "An infant may make an express written contract for necessaries upon which he may be sued, but ... by showing the price agreed to be paid was unreasonable, he can reduce the recovery to a just compensation for the necessaries received by him." Askey v. Williams, 74 Tex. 294, 297; 5 L. R. A. 176; 11 S. W. 1101.
4 Genereux v. Sibley, 18 R. I. 43; 25 Atl. 345.
5 Hanlon v. Wheeler (Tex. Civ. App.), 45 S. W. 821 (provided their services are necessaries, or are beneficial).
See Sec. 867.
6 Welch v. Olmstead, 90 Mich. 492; 51 N. W. 541.
7 Gregory v. Lee, 64 Conn. 407; 25 L. R. A. 618; 30 Atl. 53; Trainer v. Trumbull, 141 Mass. 527; 6 N. E. 761; Epperson v. Nugent, 57 Miss. 45; 34 Am. Rep. 434; Gay v. Bal-lou, 4 Wend. (N. Y.) 403; 21 Am. Dec. 158; Hyman v. Cain, 3 Jones (N. C.) 111.
8"The question whether or not the infant made an express promise to pay is not important. He is held on a promise implied by law, and not, strictly speaking, on his actual promise. The law implies a promise to pay, from the necessities of his situation; just as in the case of a lunatic." Trainer v. Trumbull, 141 Mass. 527, 530; 6 N. E. 761.
9 Gregory v. Lee, 64 Conn. 407; 25 L. R. A. 618; 30 Atl. 53. In this case an infant while attending college hired a room for ten months. He occupied it for four months and then left, after paying rent in full to the time of leaving. It was held that he was not liable for the rent beyond the time that he occupied the room. So of a lease of a house by a married infant; Peck v. Cain, 27 Tex. Civ. App. 38; 63 S. W. 177. In Pool v. Pratt, 1 Chip. (Vt.) 252, 254, the court said, "if he contract to purchase articles ever so necessary, he is not holden by his contract to receive and pay for the articles."
10 Trainer v. Trumbull. 141 Mass. 527; 6 N. E. 761; Squier v. Hydlifl, 9 Mich. 274. "The liability of an