Halbman v. Lemke
- P (a minor) entered into a contract with D to buy a used car for $1250. P paid $1000 up front and would pay $25 per week until the balance was paid.
- Five weeks after the purchase agreement, car broke down. D offered to help P with labor for repairs if P would supply the parts.
- P refused and took the car to the repair shop. The bill was $637.40. P did not pay the bill.
- P returned the title to D and demanded the return of the purchase price. D refused.
- The repair shop chopped the car to pay the bill and towed the car to P's father's house. There, the car was vandalized and unsalvageable.
- P sued for return of the purchase price.
- Lower court found for P.
- Appellate court affirmed, found for P.
- WI Supreme Court affirmed, found for P.
- Does a minor, having disaffirmed a contract for the purchase of an item which is not a necessity and having tendered the property back to the vendor, have to make restitution to the vendor for damage to the property prior to the disaffirmance?
- Absent misrepresentation or tortious damage to the property, a minor who disaffirms a contract for the purchase of an item which is not a necessity may recover his purchase price without liability for use, depreciation, damage, or other diminution in value.
- The "infancy doctrine" gives a minor the absolute right to disaffirm a contract for the purchase of items which are not necessities.
- The purpose of this doctrine is to protect minors from foolishly squandering their wealth through improvident contracts with crafty adults who would take advantage of them in the marketplace.
- It is designed to protect the minor, sometimes at the expense of an innocent vendor.
- A minor is under the enforceable duty to return to the vendor, upon disaffirmance, as much of the consideration as remains in his possession.
- Thus, when the minor no longer possesses the property which was the subject matter of the contract, the rule requiring the return of the property does not apply.
- If D were to prevail, it would require P to return more than there is remaining in his possession.
- This would bind the minor to a part of the obligation which he is privileged to avoid by law.
- Public policy is being dealt with here. (need to protect minors from foolishly squandering their wealth through improvident contracts with crafty adults who would take advantage of them in the marketplace)