In the latest Weekly Wright Report:
- Is Age Just A Number?
Is Age Just A Number?
When we left Romeo and Juliet at the balcony scene, Romeo was contemplating whether to change his name to make Juliet happy or to keep his name, and enter into a Name Image Likeness agreement.
We do know that Juliet was 13 at the time of her death. Shakespeare, however, does not specify Romeo’s age. His impulsive behavior and quick transition from feelings for Rosaline to Juliet would be consistent for a teenager. Most renditions of the play have Romeo older than Juliet, but still in his teens. Literary scholars often place Romeo’s age somewhere between 16 to 21.
While Verona has yet to issue legislation on NIL agreements, the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (“MPSSAA”) recently issued guidance for NIL agreements for public high school student athletes. So, does Romeo’s age make a difference when entering into a NIL agreement?
In Maryland, the age of majority is 18. In the absence of a contrary statute, a minor’s contract is voidable. However, a minor may be liable for the value of necessaries furnished to him or her. The doctrine of necessaries is well recognized in Maryland law.
The application of the doctrine was explained by the Maryland courts in Monumental Bldg. Ass. V. Herman, 33 Md. 128 (1870). Basically, necessaries are such things as “board, apparel, medical aid, teaching and instruction” and other things that are essential to the minor’s existence. Unless the items are absolutely necessary, and suitable to the minor’s circumstances, a person who contracts with a minor does so at their own peril. Further, the doctrine is often limited to when a minor child is living with and supported by his/her parents as parents are responsible for the necessaries of their minor children. Garay v. Overholtzer, 332 Md. 339, 368-69 (1993).
So, if Romeo was below the age of 18, a parent or guardian would have to sign the NIL agreement as it is doubtful that such an agreement would be deemed a necessity. The agreement, then, would be voidable at Romeo’s option. The Court in Monumental Bldg. Ass. V. Herman explained: “The law allows [minors] when they come of age and are capable of considering over again, what they have done, either to ratify or to avoid the contract.”
How quickly after turning 18 would Romeo have to avoid a contract? Maryland courts have stated the disaffirmance must be in a “reasonable” amount of time “in respect to the special circumstances of each case.” Amey v. Cockey, 73 Md. 297, (1891). For example, where a minor purchased stock which then declined over an 18-month period, the Court essentially disallowed the disaffirmance by denying recovery of the difference between the purchase price of the stock and the price at which it was selling at the time of disaffirmance. McBriety v. Spear, 191 Md. 221 (1948). The Court’s ruling was in part due to the volatility of the stock market thereby causing a need to decide quickly. The question of reasonable time would have been determined differently had the value of the item purchased been stable and the minor had not waited for 18 months.
With his father, Lord Montague, in the midst of a family feud with the Capulets, Romeo might want to seek advice from Friar Laurence before signing an NIL.