We’ve all been to a child’s birthday party, right? There’s usually lots of sugar, lots of fun, and lots of kids running out all their energy. It’s exciting! Unless, of course, you’re the one hosting said party, in which case it’s also a bit stressful because the host has to do all the planning. Sending out invites, getting enough food and cake, filling enough party bags, etc. The mental list is virtually endless. So, one can understand why, if you’re hosting a birthday party for your kid, you’re a bit frazzled around the edges when all is said and done. But one parent’s recent actions go way above and far beyond what you’d expect from a party host.
Alex Nash, a five-year-old boy, was recently invited to a friend’s birthday party. His parents responded to the invitation, indicating that he’d attend. They later realized that they had something else to do on the same day, and with no contact information, Alex’s parent were unable to let anyone know of the change of plans. So what did the party host decide was an appropriate response? An invoice! That’s right, this five-year-old boy is supposed to fork over a $24 “child’s party no show fee.” The RSVP apparently created a contract that the five-year-old didn’t comply with when he didn’t show up at the party.
So, what’s the deal? Should you expect to be on the hook if you don’t get your kid to a party that he or she was supposed to attend?
The answer is no.
While this particular story comes from England, I’m going to focus on U.S. contract law. And the first thing you should know is that parties need to have capacity in order to enter into a valid contract. In general, minors lack capacity to enter into a contract in the U.S. And while it’s true that the age of a minor varies by state, a five-year-old would certainly be underage in all states
That said, as with most rules of law, there are some exceptions. For example, in most states, a minor cannot void a contract for necessities, like food and water. In Texas, a minor who doesn’t have a guardian and who is over the age of 14 can enter into an enforceable life insurance contract. And in New York, a minor can enter into a valid contract to perform as a actor, musician, vocalist, or dancer. But you can take comfort in the fact that a birthday invitation is not going to be an exception.
Let’s say that the jilted party throwers want to hold the parents accountable, though. After all, Alex probably didn’t mail the invitation back affirming that he’d be there. The parents don’t have a capacity issue, so would this work?
The answer is still no. Another requirement for a valid contract is that there be an intention to enter into a legally binding relationship amongst the parties. Now, I haven’t done any polling here to verify, but I’m fairly confident that no one RSVP’s to a birthday party thinking they are entering into a legal contract.
What are your thoughts on this story?
Hear mine in the latest Legal Lis podcast: foxrad.io/1CcPf17