This post has been contributed by Professor Roger Halson, Module Convenor for Contract law
Every parent knows that children’s parties are dangerous activities. However it seems a parent’s exposure to risk may begin before the party itself. Last year the parents of a five year old schoolboy were sent the invoice above when their son failed to turn up for a classmate’s party at a Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre which they had previously accepted. The mother who sent the invoice apparently believed she was legally entitled to demand the sum. Was she right?
The answer is almost certainly no. The act of confirming party attendance would not create a contract as there would be no intention to create legal relations. The legal presumption in cases of social agreements is that even if they satisfy all other requirements for the creation of a contract the usual presumption would need to be rebutted eg by an express assumption of legal responsibility. Indeed even if there was such an acknowledgment any resulting contract may not be sufficiently defined. Therefore while the ‘no show’ child’s parents may have broken the usual conventions followed with regard to children’s parties, they were not in breach of contract.