Kiefer v. Fred Howe Motors


–          Kiefer, a father and husband bought a “lemon” car a couple months prior to his 21st b-day…Prior to turning 21, he signed a contract stating that he was indeed 21 to buy the car…After becoming of age, he sought to return the “lemon” car and later sued to recover the price.

–          Defendant argues:

  • Not an exception of the general rule, but as of public policy – “adopt a rule that an emancipated minor over 18 yrs old be made legally responsible for his contracts.”
  • He is married and shows that he is mature enough to make a legally binding contract – has a family – children.

–          Court ruled:

  • To show that someone is married under the age of 21 does not show maturity in all cases, but can also show immaturity for doing the same act.
  • Suggesting that married person shows more wisdom and maturity than a single counter-part which is wrong.
  • Even though big purchases the infancy doctrine gets sticky, it still has sound public policy intent.

Procedural History

–          Trial court ruled that the minor was void of his contract (Fred Howe motor’s appealed).

–          Supreme Court of Wisconsin affirmed lower courts conviction.


– Does the rule to protect minors from contractual obligation outweigh the social justice that it creates for minors at large?


–          ­NO – minors require some protection from the pitfalls of the marketplace –



–          “The contract of a minor, other than for necessaries, is either void or voidable at his option.”

–          Other exceptions include statues or duties imposed by law…


–          Emancipation of a “minor” is not part of the rule of law.

–          Origin of rule is to protect minors (infancy doctrine) from injustice – in the modern world, this seems to lose a little lust – shows examples of being able to carry firearms, but not buy them…etc.

–          Legislature intent – judge is interpreting what legislature intended.

  • Gives three examples of a law review article – extremely burdensome on the court if accepted…

–          Even though there is some logic, he cannot overrule legislation and show that just because you are emancipated displays maturity and wisdom to be legally bound to a contract over the age of 18.


– Affirmed.

Comments are closed.