12 year-old Jennifer is attending a Florida Marlins game. Ryan Howard, of the visiting Philadelphia Phillies, hits his 200th career home run. Jennifer catches the ball. Jennifer is hustled by stadium security to the Phillies locker room, and gives up the historic (and valuable) ball for a less valuable ball autographed by Mr. Howard. Parents sue. Mr. Howard returns original ball you young Jennifer. Jennifer and parents are excoriated as thieves, lawsuits condemned.
This is one of those areas where lawyers view the world differently than other people. Jennifer is a minor — and a pretty young one at that. The ball exchange was a contract. Minors are legally incapable of consent, and therefore cannot enter into binding contracts. Jennifer gets the ball back.
One of the most important functions of the law is protecting the rights of the weak from the desires of the strong. Mr. Howard and the Phillies are the strong. Jennifer was the weak. If Mr. Howard wants to make a deal for it as a keepsake, let him negotiate the price with her parents, who have the legal right to enter into a contract on behalf of their child. If they want more than an autographed ball, if they are obnoxious and mercenary, too bad. That’s the price for living in a world where adults aren’t allowed to take advantage of children in commerce.