Can my son get his money back on this bad deal?

My seventeen-year-old son purchased a four wheeler from a man in Wichita. The four wheeler was advertised as “running good.” When my son got the four wheeler home, it did not start. We took it to a local mechanic and it has multiple mechanical problems. It will cost more to fix it then the thing is worth. My son just wants his money back. I did not know about the purchase at the time, but I feel bad for him. I am sure he has learned his lesson. My question is can he get out of this contract as a minor?

The answer to your question is “maybe.” The fact that a party to a contract is a minor may be sufficient grounds for the minor to avoid the enforcement of the contract.

Every contract has basic elements including an offer, acceptance, and consideration. Another important element of a contract is that the parties have capacity to enter into the agreement. Mental capacity may not exist where one of the parties to the contract has an inability to understand the basic contractual terms.

Infancy may be a reason that a party lacks mental capacity. In Kansas, K.S.A. section 38-101 defines a minor as a person under the age of 18. Thus, in general, an individual under the age of 18 can avoid the enforcement of a contract based on infancy.

If the defense of infancy exists, the contract is voidable within a reasonable time. It is the minor’s obligation to void the contract. Often times, the minor is responsible for returning the subject matter of the contract.

The statute, however, carves out exceptions to the basic rule that a minor can void a contract. One exception is if the minor misrepresented his age to the other party. Accordingly, if your son told the man that he was 19, your son may be unable to assert infancy as a defense to enforcement.

Another broad exception exists for situations where a minor engages in business as an adult. What constitutes adult business, however, is determined on a case-by-case basis and is difficult to define. A minor may also be responsible for paying for necessities such as food, clothing, or medical attention.

Thus, in answer to your question, your son may have a basis for voiding the contract based on the fact that he was a minor at the time that the four wheeler was purchased. Although your question does not ask about the nature of the advertisement, it is worth noting that arguments may stem from the representations about the vehicle that were made by the seller as well. Hopefully you are able to amicably resolve this situation.