diagnostic hypothetical

Travis A. Wise
Prof. McLellan
September 10, 1997

Ms. Martha Midear
Can our client disaffirm the contract she signed as a minor for the purchase of Steve’s automobile?
A person who enters into a contract while a minor can disaffirm that contract within a reasonable time after entering into the contract unless the contract falls under all three prongs of §6712 of the Family Code.
The fact pattern in this case does not specify the exact date of Martha’s birth, therefore it is not possible to identify if she was in fact a minor.  The facts indicate that she was almost 16 when she dropped out of school near the end of the school year, therefore I shall assume she turned 16 sometime in June of 1994.  On June 1, 1996, when she would have still been 17, she entered into the contract.  It appears she was a minor at the time the contract was entered into.  The accident happened, and Martha has attempted to disaffirm the contract, after she turned 18.  Therefore, if we are successful in arguing that Martha disaffirmed the contract within a reasonable period of time and that the contract did not meet the three conditions of Family Code §6712, Martha should succeed in this lawsuit.
Opposing counsel will argue that one year and three months after Martha turned 18 is not a reasonable period of time to disaffirm a contract for the purchase of a car.  We will argue that given the length of the payment plan and the fact that Martha did not yet hold the pink slip to the automobile, the length of time is in fact reasonable because she was still performing her promise in the contract.
Opposing counsel will argue that this contract cannot be disaffirmed, under Family Code §6712, for the following reasons:
1.                             The car was necessary for Martha to transport herself to and from work and in the performance of her employment.  This work was the only way she was able to support herself and her daughter.
2.                             While the pink slip had not been tendered, the car had been tendered to Martha, thus she had constructive ownership of the vehicle.
3.                             The contract was entered into while Martha was unable to be supported by her parent.
We will counter argue that in fact this contract does not meet the three prong test, and therefore is able to be disaffirmed:
1.                    While Martha did use the vehicle in the course of her employment, it was not mandatory that she do so.  She had the option of using the bus or using her employer’s car, either of which would have permitted her to continue to have the same level of income.
2.                    The car was not actually furnished to Martha because the contract provided that she would not receive title to the vehicle until the contract was fulfilled.  As such, Steve continues to retain ownership of the vehicle.
3.                    During the course of this contract, Martha’s mother has babysat for Martha’s daughter, thus providing for the Martha and her family by relieving her from the cost of child care. 
In light of the counterarguments Martha has to Family Code §6712, Martha should succeed in arguing that this contract is able to be disaffirmed and she should not be held liable for the contract’s terms under her right of disaffirmance.

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