It’s time for the next installment of Holcomb Dunbar law series “Insurance Law from A to Z.” This was put together by our litigation group who practice in the insurance law arena. Of course, if you have questions about these or any other topics please do not hesitate to contact us.
This week’s installment – Minor’s Legal Rights
The age of majority in Mississippi is 21. Miss. Code Ann. § 1-3-27.
All persons 18 or older, if not otherwise disabled, have the capacity to enter into binding contractual relationships affecting personal property. Miss. Code Ann. § 93-19-13. Accordingly, this section removes the disability of minority of all persons 18 years of age or older for the purpose of entering into contracts affecting personal property, including the right to settle a claim, and accept money in the settlement of a claim. Garret v. Gay, 394 So. 2d 321, 323 (Miss. 1981).
A minor age 15 or older may contract for life, health and accident insurance. Miss. Code Ann. § 83-7-19.
Mississippi applies the common law “rule of sevens.” A child under the age of seven is irrefutably presumed to be incapable of negligence. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 are presumed to be incapable of negligence, but the presumption may be rebutted by showing that the child had elevated capacity. Children above the age of 14 are presumed to be capable of negligence. Steele v. Holiday Inn, 626 So. 2d 593 (Miss. 1993).
The father and mother are the joint natural guardians of their minor children and are equally charged with their care, nurture, welfare and education, and the care and management of their estates. Miss. Code Ann. § 93-13-1. Because of this, when settling a minor’s claim, both parents must petition the Court for authority to settle or one must be a petitioner and the other parent join in the petition for all relief requested. As the natural parents and guardians of their children, the mother and father can accept settlements of $25,000.00 or less before the Court without being appointed as guardian. Miss. Code Ann. § 93-13-211. When a total settlement is greater than $25,000.00, or personal property exceeding the value of that sum, a guardian is required to be appointed to accept the settlement.
A minor under guardianship is a ward of the Chancery Court. Carpenter v. Berry, 58 So. 3d 1158 (Miss. 2011). As such, it must take all necessary steps to conserve and protect the best interest of these wards of the court. Id. And all persons who deal with guardians or with the courts in respect to the rights of minors are charged with this knowledge. Id. See also Union Chevrolet Co. v. Arrington, 138 So. 593 (Miss. 1932).
It is incumbent upon a defendant, in an action seeking to settle a claim of a minor under guardianship, to assure that all of the procedures set out by the Supreme Court are followed or risk a set-aside of the settlement. Carpenter v. Berry, 58 So. 3d 1158 (Miss. 2011).
Every petition for authority to compromise and settle a minor’s claim shall set forth the facts in relation thereto and the reason for such compromise and settlement and the amount thereof. See Unif. Chanc. Ct. R. 6.10. According to the Uniform Rule, the material witnesses concerning the injury and damages shall also be produced before the Chancellor for examination. Id. Where counsel representing the minor has investigated the matter and advised settlement, he or she shall give testimony to the Court regarding the result of the investigation. Id.
It is incumbent upon those paying money to a guardian to make certain that the chancellor’s decree is faithfully executed in every respect. Joyce v. Brown, 304 So. 2d 634 (Miss. 1974).
In practice, we have found that an increasing number of chancellors are requiring that the minor be represented by an attorney at the settlement hearing.
The information contained in this post is for general guidance on matters of interest only. The application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. Given the changing nature of laws, rules and regulations, there may be omissions or inaccuracies in information contained in this report. Accordingly, the information in this report is provided with the understanding that the authors are not herein engaged in rendering legal, tax, or other professional advice and services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with legal or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult with your counsel or the attorneys at Holcomb Dunbar.