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Court
Privy Council

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Capacity
Minors

AustraliaNashNash v Inman

[1908] 2 KB 1

 

Quick summary

Facts

Nash,a tailor on Savile Row, entered into a contract to supply Inman (a Cambridge undergraduate student) with, amongst other things, 11 fancy waistcoats.  Inman was a minor who was already adequately supplied with clothes by his father. When Nash claimed the cost of these clothes Inman sought to rely on lack of capacity and succeeded at first instance.

Held

Fletcher-Moulton LJ

‘An infant, like a lunatic, is incapable of making a contract of purchase in the strict sense of the words; but if a man satisfies the needs of the infant or lunatic by supplying to him necessaries, the law will imply an obligation to repay him for the services so rendered, and will enforce that obligation against the estate of the infant or lunatic.’ 

However, the foundation of such a claim is not contractual, but rather an obligation to make ‘fair payment in respect of needs satisfied.’

Buckley LJ

‘At common law … the contracts of an infant were voidable except such as were necessarily to his prejudice; these last were void.’ 

However, infants have a limited capacity to contract.  To succeed, the plaintiff had to prove the contract within this limited capacity, which his Honour defined as follows:

an infant may contract for the supply at a reasonable price of articles reasonably necessary for his support in his station in life if he has not already a sufficient supply. To render an infant's contract for necessaries an enforceable contract two conditions must be satisfied, namely, (1.) the contract must be for goods reasonably necessary for his support in his station in life, and (2.) he must not have already a sufficient supply of these necessaries.

This could not be satisfied here.

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