Infants. Liability for Fraudulent Misrepresentation of Age

A. L. L.
1915 University of Pennsylvania Law Review and American Law Register  
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more » ... out Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate--jstor/individuals/early-journal--content. JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not--for--profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. tion of a speed regulation involves commission of an act malum in se (and statutes have been framed in such words), clearly homicide in violation of the statute could be held manslaughter without controverting the principle of Commonwealth v. Adams. Again in juris- dictions where only a slight degree of negligence will support a prosecution for involuntary manslaughter, a statute declaring a certain rate of speed negligent driving would be conclusive as to the gross negligence, while a statute making a certain rate of speed prima facie negligence, would be very strong evidence. All of which is true provided only the courts do not establish a system of automobile law apart from the general law of the land. J. F. H. INFANTS-LIABILITY FOR FRAUDULENT MISREPRESENTATION OF AGE- The settled policy of the law to shield infants from the consequences of contracts made before they have attained the maturity attendant upon becoming of age, frequently conflicts with the duty of the courts to afford a remedy to defrauded persons. It was early recognized, and now universally realized, that the protection, extended because of the reputed ignorance, lack of discretion and inexperience of mankind during legal infancy, "must be used as a shield and not as a sword."l Such a realization, however, has not resulted in the universal enunciation or adoption of principles to be applied where the conflict occurs. One of the most troublesome situations, in this branch of the law, arises where an adult is induced to contract with an infant by reason of the latter's misrepresentation of his age. "A multitude of undistinguishable distinctions"2 has been made in order to reconcile policy and substantial justice. In a recent case,3 the English Court of Appeals, believing that it was "necessary to safeguard the weakness of infants at large, even though here and there a juvenile rogue slipped through," refused to allow a recovery either in deceit, quasi contract, or equity by the plaintiff, a money lender, who, in reliance upon the defendant's fraudulent representation that he had reached his majority, had lent him four hundred pounds which had been expended for non-necessaries. As long ago as I665,4 it was decided, and it is now held in England 5 and in many American jurisdictions,6 that, although, as a general rule, an infant is liable for his torts, he is not answerable Jennings v. Rundall, 8 T. R. 335 (Eng. I799); per Lord Kenyon.
doi:10.2307/3313768 fatcat:gewz2n2jifgu5kh3h3zvmz23se