Advice if Minor Signed an Agreement to Pay Debts
Can a minor be held liable for debts incurred, such as medical bills?
My daughter's boyfriend is 20 years old and his parents are claiming he signed a document when he was 14 agreeing to be liable for all his medical bills when he turned 18. Is there such a thing in the State of Nevada?
Whether or not your daughter's boyfriend can be held legally liable for these medical bills depends on the laws of your state regarding debts incurred by minors. In most states, many obligations created by minors are considered voidable, as minors are not legally competent to enter into binding contracts. Voidable contracts are not automatically invalid as a matter of law; however, the person who signed a contract as a minor can request that the contract be voided if the other party ever attempts to enforce the terms of the contract. This law would likely apply to the "contract" your daughter's boyfriend's parents had him sign when he was fourteen years old, as well as to any medical bills he incurred as a minor. However, many states provide exceptions to this rule for debts incurred for necessities, such as emergency medical treatment. Some states require that the medical provider attempt to collect from the minor's parents prior to turning to the minor for payment, as parents are generally liable for any necessary medical treatment provided to their minor children. Most medical providers also require parents to sign a financial responsibility agreement before treating minor children, making the parents, not the child, liable for the debt. Having a minor sign a contract agreeing to pay his own medical bills once he turns eighteen would generally not free the minor's parents from their legal liability for the costs associated with a minor's medical care. Since the laws regarding contracts signed by minors vary significantly from state to state, I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in Nevada to discuss your future son-in-law's rights and obligations in this situation. Consulting with an attorney in your area should provide him with the information he needs to determine his liability and what steps, if any, he needs to take to defend himself in this situation.
As I mention above, most medical providers require that parents consent to the treatment of minors and agree to be liable for the costs of any medical treatment. Generally speaking, only when a minor requires emergency treatment and no parent is present to provide consent would a medical provider proceed to treat a minor without a parent's or legal guardian's consent; in such cases, providers will generally stabilize the minor patient, but may wait for parental consent before proceeding with any further care. Even in cases in which a parent does not consent to emergency treatment, the child's parents are usually liable for the cost of any medical care provided to their child, though in certain states the minor may be liable in such cases if the provider cannot collect payment from the minor's parents. I would expect that any medical provider who provided treatment to your daughter's boyfriend when he was still a minor would pursue his parents for payment, regardless of any document which he may have signed stating that he would take responsibility for the debts. As I mentioned, contracts entered into by minors are often considered voidable, so he may need to send a letter to his parents stating that he is voiding the contract which he signed stating that he would pay these debts. He probably has little to be concerned about, despite what his parents may say about his liability for this debt.
Again, I strongly encourage your daughter's boyfriend to consult with an attorney in Nevada to discuss his situation and what steps, if any, he needs to take to protect himself. I wish him the best of luck in resolving this dispute.
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