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.
By the weight of authority a minor may avoid a contract of service entered into by him after performing it in whole or in part and recover the reasonable value of his services.1 Thus a minor may avoid a contract to forfeit two weeks wages unless two weeks notice of leaving is given;2 or a contract requiring him to work for six months or to give two weeks' notice if he quit, to enable him to recover anything,3 and if he contracts to accept goods for his wages he may avoid this contract and demand money.4 The contrary view has been expressed that if an infant receives what he agreed to take for his services he cannot recover more.5 Of course in any event the amount already paid to the infant should be credited as a part payment.6 In Massachusetts a different view is entertained. Thus where A, a minor employee agreed with his employer that articles not necessaries purchased by him should be deducted from A's wages, A afterwards disposed of such articles advantageously. On reaching majority A could repudiate the agreement and recover full wages.7 So where a minor worked under a contract that his wages were to be applied to paying off a debt due to his employer from his father's estate, it was held that on his failure to receive anything from his father's estate he could repudiate the contract and recover full wages.8 While some courts have practically nullified the right of a minor to avoid such a contract by holding that the employer can also set off against the value of the infant's services, all damages caused by his repudiating his contract,9 the better reasoning is that such damages cannot be so set off, as the infant has the right to avoid his contract without being liable to any penalty.10 The entire value of his services for the entire time worked is recoverable; and this statement of course implies that any misconduct or negligence of the infant by which his services are less valuable than they otherwise would be must be allowed for.11 A generally recognized exception to the rule that a minor's contract of service is voidable, is that a contract to work for necessaries, if fair and reasonable, cannot be avoided as far as it has been executed ;12 and this principle has been applied to a contract for necessaries and money,13 or necessaries and other property ;14 but if his services are reasonably worth more than his board he may recover a reasonable value for his services less board furnished.15
15 Downing v. Stone, 47 Mo. App. 144. There is "no such thing as an innocent purchaser of a minor's property." Englebert v. Troxell, 40 Neb. 195, 212; 42 Am. St. Rep. 665; 26 L. R. A. 177; 58 N. W. 852.
16 Riley v. Mallory, 33 Conn. 201; House v. Alexander. 105 Ind. 109; 55 Am. Rep. 189; 4 N. E. 891; Rice v. Boyer, 108 Ind. 472; 58 Am. Rep. 53; 9 N. E. 420; Butler v. Stark (Ky.), 79 S. W. 204; Robinson v. Weeks, 56 Me. 102; McCarthy v. Henderson, 138 Mass. 310; Barney v. Rutledge, 104 Mich. 289; 62 N. W. 369; Nichols, etc., Co. v. Snyder, 78 Minn. 502; 81 N. W. 516; Whit-comb v. Joslyn, 51 Vt. 79; 31 Am. Rep. 678.
17 Barney v. Rutledge, 104 Mich. 289: 62 N. W. 309: Miller v. Smith. 26 Minn. 248; 37 Am. Rep. 407; 2 N. W. 942; Cogley v. Cushman. 16 Minn. 397; Chapin v. Shafer, 49 N. V. 407.
18 Bishop on Contracts, Enlarged Edition, Sec. 921.
1 Ray v. Haines, 52 111. 485; Van Pelt v. Corwine, 6 Ind. 363; Dallas v. Hollingsworth, 3 Ind. 537; Haugh, etc., Works v. Duncan. 2 Ind. App. 264; 28 N. E. 334; De-rocher v. Mills. 58 Me. 217; 4 Am. Rep. 286; Judkins v. Walker, 17 Me. 38; 35 Am. Dec. 229; Morse v. Ely, 154 Mass. 458; 26 Am. St. Rep. 263; 28 N. E. 577; Dube v. Beaudry, 150 Mass. 448; 15 Am. St. Rep. 228; 6 L. R. A. 146; 23 N. E. 222; Gaffney v. Hayden. 110 Mass. 137; 14 Am. Rep. 580; Spicer v. Earl, 41 Mich. 191; 32 Am. Rep. 152; 1 N. W. 923; Danville v. Mfg. Co., 62 N. H. 133; Hagerty v. Lock Co., 62 N. H. 576; Voorhees v. Wait. 15 N. J. L. 343; Thompson v. Marshall, 50 Mo. App. 145; Dearden v. Adams, 19 R. I. 217; 36 Atl. 3; Taft v. Pike, 14 Vt. 405; 39 Am. Dec 228.
2 Danville v. Mfg. Co.. 62 N. H. 133.
3 Derocher v. Continental Mills, 58 Me. 217; 4 Am. Rep. 286.
4 Abell v. Warren, 4 Vt. 149.
5 Wilhelm v. Hardman, 13 Md. 140. So by statute, Murphy v. Johnson. 45 Ia. 57.
6 Waugh v. Emerson, 79 Ala. 295; Spicer v. Earl, 41 Mich. 191; 32 Am. Rep. 152; 1 N. W. 923; Hager-ty v. Lock Co., 62 N. H. 576. A minor of nineteen whose father is dead, whose mother is married again and who has no guardian may bind himself by a contract of employment and his employer will be released to the extent of the money and goods furnished the infant in part payment. Waugh v. Emerson, 79 Ala. 295.
7 Morse v. Ely. 154 Mass. 458; 26 Am. St. Rep. 263; 28 N. E. 577.
8 Dube v. Beaudry, 150 Mass. 448; 15 Am. St. Rep. 228; 6 L. R. A. 146; 23 N. E. 222.
9 judkins v. Walker, 17 Me. 38; 35 Am. Dec. 229; Hoxie v. Lincoln. 25 Vt. 206; Thomas v. Dike, 11 Vt. 273; 34 Am. Dec. 690.