Are parental guarantees of their child’s performance enforceable?

Throughout my career, I have routinely included a parental guarantee of the child’s performance in all contracts I drafted for clients engaging a minor. IMHO, the parent gets a separate benefit and detriment from that of the child in agreeing to same in that the parent’s burden of providing for the child is abrogated if the child becomes an earner.

At common law, the custodial parent of a minor child is entitled by law to his/her services and earnings, such entitlement being reciprocal to the parental duty to support the unemancipated child. Brumfield v. Brumfield, 194 Va. 577, 74 S.E.2d 170 (1953) (emancipation of child confers on child the rights to own earnings and terminates parental legal obligation of support).

In Florida, pursuant to F.S. 743 et seq., a Court may Order that a child may not disavow a contract (after hearing and provided that the contract complies with the statutory requirements). Notwithstanding, F.S. 743 et seq. falls short of total emancipation. The logical conclusion is whether or not a Court Ordered removal of a child’s incapacity to contract under F.S. 743, the parents’ duty to care for the child remains, and they get a benefit if the child earns as aforesaid.

I submit this hypothetical in support of my spin that parental guarantees of such voidable minor contracts are enforceable…

Movie producer (“MP”) is doing yet another remake of The Judo Junvenille, and wants a famous child star as the lead. It is determined that if this famous child star disavows, the film will not be a money maker and all pre-production money will be lost. MP calls Leslies of London to insure against this loss and subsequently pays for an insurance policy to indemnify MP from such loss. Whether or not a Court Order is obtained under F.S. 743, the insurer should be on the hook.

Why is the parent who furnishes a guarantee any different than an insurer?

I have not found any Florida cases directly on point, but there are some cases out there that embrace the foregoing logic.

See Boy Blue, Inc. v. Brown, 74 Va. Cir. 4, 11 (Va. Cir. Ct. 2007) and Herig v. Akerman, Senterfitt & Edison, P.A., 741 So. 2d 591 (1999).

Notwithstanding, see Putnal v. Walker, 61 Fla. 720, (1911). Putnal did not involve a contract for personal services. The Court found that where a minor disaffirms a contract, the minor must return any consideration received, “but, where he has disposed of it during his infancy, his right to disaffirmance is not dependent on his making good to the other party what he received.”

Also, see generally, Litigation Over Minor’s Rights to Disavow Contracts, April 25, 2015, by Charlotte Towne. © 2015 Towne. All rights reserved.

Additionally, see Margaret LeAnn Rimes, Plaintiff, v. Curb Records, Inc. and LeAnn Rimes Entertainment, Inc., Defendants, 129 F.Supp.2d 984, United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division, January 10, 2001.

Note, in Phillips v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, 347 So.2d (Fla. 2nd DCA 1977), a minor was found by the court to be bound to an attorney’s contingency fee agreement after the agreement was fully performed and the minor attempted to disaffirm it. 

In relation to the New York statutes in 20 Columbia-VLA Journal of Law & the Arts 553 (1996) at 567,

“Many of the contracts made with minors in the entertainment industry today are not court-approved, yet these contracts are nevertheless valid.

 ‘(F)ailure…to obtain approval…(does) not render the contract null and void when made; rather, the determination of its validity (is) merely postponed until attempted disaffirmance.’

Prinze v. Jones, 345 N.E.2d 295 (N.Y. 1976).”

One of the cases following the Prinze case holding involved Brooke Shields, cited as Shields v. Gross, 448 N.E.2d 108 (N.Y. 1983).  In this case Brooke Shields was held to be bound to an agreement entered into by her mother on the minor Brooke’s behalf after Brooke attempted to disaffirm it on the basis of her minority.  It was argued that the failure to have the contract with the minor approved by the court under the statute in and of itself voids the Agreement. In the Shields case the supreme appellate court in New York rejects this argument stating that the law “was not intended to expand the rights of infants to disaffirm their contracts…but to provide assurance that the infants would not later disaffirm executory contracts to the adult contracting party’s disadvantage.” Shields at 111.