Law School Case Brief
Webster St. P'ship, Ltd. v. Sheridan - 220 Neb. 9, 368 N.W.2d 439 (1985)
As a general rule, an infant does not have the capacity to bind himself absolutely by contract. However, the privilege of infancy does not enable an infant to escape liability in all cases and under all circumstances. For example, an infant is liable for the value of necessaries furnished him. An infant's liability for necessaries is based not upon his actual contract to pay for them but upon a contract implied by law, or, in other words, a quasi-contract. Just what are necessaries, however, has no exact definition. The term is flexible and varies according to the facts of each individual case.
Appellant landlord (Webster Street Partnership, Ltd.) sought damages from appellee tenants (Matthew Sheridan and Pat Wilwerding) after they vacated the leased property. Appellees argued that they were minors when they signed the contract of lease. The municipal court entered judgment in favor of the landlord and against the minors. On appeal, the district court found that the landlord was entitled to a $145 judgment and that the minors were entitled to a $150 credit. The district court entered judgment in favor of the minors and against the landlord in the amount of $3.25. The landlord sought review, apparently arguing that the district court abused its discretion and committed errors of law in improperly modifying the judgment of the municipal court.
Was the rental of the apartment considered a necessary that would make the minor lessees liable under the contract of lease?
The Supreme Court of Nebraska reversed the judgment. The Court held that the rental of the apartment was not a necessary and thus, the minors had the right to avoid the contract either during their minority or within a reasonable time after reaching their majority. Disaffirmance by an infant completely puts an end to the contract's existence, both as to him and as to the adult with whom he contracted. Because the parties then stand as if no contract had ever existed, the infant can recover payments made to the adult, and the adult is entitled to the return of whatever was received by the infant. The record showed that appellee Wilwerding clearly disaffirmed the contract during his minority. Moreover, the record supported the view that when the agent for appellant landlord Webster Street ordered the minors out for failure to pay rent and they vacated the premises, appellee Sheridan likewise disaffirmed the contract. The cause was remanded with directions to vacate the judgment in favor of Webster Street and to enter a judgment in favor of Matthew Sheridan and Pat Wilwerding.
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