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Kiefer v. Fred Howe Motors, Inc

    Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiff Steven Kiefer, purchased an automobile from Defendant Fred Howe Motors, Inc., when he was a few months short of his twenty-first birthday even though he represented that he was twenty-one already. After he became of age, Plaintiff sought to return the automobile and sued to recover the purchase price.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The contract of a minor, other than for necessaries, is either void or voidable at his option.

    Facts. Plaintiff, a working husband and father, purchased a five-year-old station wagon from Defendant. Plaintiff was a few months shy of his twenty-first birthday at the time of the purchase. Despite this, the contract Plaintiff signed stated, “I represent that I am 21 years of age or over and recognize that the dealer sells the above vehicle upon this representation.” After becoming of age, Plaintiff had difficulties with the car, and he sought to return it. Plaintiff initiated the present suit to recover the purchase price.

    Issue. Did the plaintiff have the capacity to enter into the contract?

    Held. No. The age of majority at the time of this case was twenty-one years. The general rule is that a contract entered into by a minor is void or voidable. Hence, even though the Plaintiff misrepresented his age to Defendant, he was still a minor, and the contract is therefore voidable at the minor’s option. Since the minor properly returned the vehicle thereby voiding the contract, he is entitled to have the purchase price returned.

    Dissent. The magical age of 21 as an indication of contractual maturity should be abandoned, as it does not have a basis in fact or public policy. Further, the vehicle must be considered a necessity to a working father.

    Discussion. Incapacity to contract due to infancy is a per se rule. No evidence can be offered to prove capacity.


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