Leslie Ltd. v. Sheill
(1914) 3 K.B.607
(Minor agreement—void—equitable relief)
Defendant obtained loans from plaintiff by fraudulently misrepresenting that he was of full age at the time of contract. Defendant sued him to recover the money.
1) Whether defendants are entitled to equitable restitution against loan given to minor?
2) Whether they could claim restitution either under action for tort arising out of contract, or of quasi-contractual claim?
1) If an infant obtains property or goods by misrepresenting his age, he can be compelled to restore it so long as the same is traceable in his possession. This is known as equitable doctrine of restitution.
However, in present case, since the money was spent by the defendant, there was neither any possibility of tracing it nor any possibility of restoring the thing got by fraud, for if the court will ask defendant to pay the equivalent sum as that of loan received, it would amount to enforcing a void contract. Restitution stops when repayment begins and equity does not enforce against minor any contractual obligation.
2) Infant can’t be held liable for a wrong when the cause of action is ex contractu or is so directly connected with the contract that it would be an indirect way of enforcing the contract. But, if the wrongful act though connected with the subject matter of the contract, yet is independent of it in the sense of not being an act contemplated by it, then infant can be liable.
In present case, since an action either on torts or on quasi contractual claim would be tantamount to enforcing the contract by making defendant liable to pay the damages or restitution, hence, no such action lies.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
Q. An infant, misrepresenting his age, took delivery of furniture, sold it to third party, but refused to pay for it to the seller. Can seller claim equitable relief against minor?
A. Though in Stocks v. Wilson,  2 KB 235, this kind of action succeeded for infant was directed to pay the amount, received by him by sale of furniture, to the original seller. However, as pointed out by Leslie v. Sheill, this kind of claim would be like enforcing the void contract for minor can’t be made liable to pay any restitution or damages. Money not being traceable for it being spent by the minor, no action should lie for restitution in such a case. Equity will only allow plaintiff to have a cause of action against the third party for tort of conversion since goods are traceable to the third party.
Author: Vishrut Kansal (National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata)