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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
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As a minor in Ohio, I signed a noncompete contract in December

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As a minor in Ohio, I signed a noncompete contract in December of last year. It stated that:

The Employee also understands that during his tenure, or up to a 12 month period immediately preceding the Employee’s termination, that the Employee may not under any circumstance start a public or private project resembling *THEWEBSITE*. Any intellectual property or ideology may not be borrowed from *THEWEBSITE* in any case whatsoever. The definition of *THEWEBSITE* is “An online e-commerce site that facilitates the sale of *Game* items for Real World Currency ($USD).” Any attempt to recreate an identical/similar project within the 12 month period may be subject to the maximum legal persecution possible in the Employee’s jurisdiction.


I recently started a website with a partner that essentially does what the website I worked for does, but is better. We used no ideologies or technologies from that website in the code. Is this noncompete valid? I am still a minor (17 years old)
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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I recently started a website with a partner that essentially does what the website I worked for does, but is better. We used no ideologies or technologies from that website in the code. Is this noncompete valid? I am still a minor (17 years old)
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When a minor enters into a contract, that contract is "voidable" at the option of the minor up until they turn 18 and a reasonable time thereafter. This just means that they can either honor the contract under its terms or cancel it at their choice. The exception is for "necessaries" like food, lodging, clothing, etc. If they continue the contract after they turn 18 the other side can argue that they have ratified it by their actions in not voiding it.
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So if you are still a minor, then any legal contractual agreement that you have entered into (except for necessaries) is completely voidable by you and can not be enforced against you if you notify the other party in writing that you are voiding the contract due to being a minor.
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Thanks
Barrister
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your answer.

 

The other party in question quoted from "The Ohio State Bar":

 

"Minors do not have full rights to enter into contracts. If a minor enters into a contract with an adult, the minor has the option to either honor or cancel the contract before he or she complies with the terms of (or performs) the contract. By complying with the terms, the minor is acting in a way that honors the contract, so the contract will be binding on the minor as well as the adult. If a minor chooses to cancel a contract because he or she is not 18 years of age, the minor should take action to cancel the contract before becoming 18. However, a minor cannot cancel a contract if the cancellation would cause an unfair result, or allow the minor to benefit from his or her own wrongdoing. For example, a minor cannot purchase a car, wreck it, then cancel the contract and expect not to have to pay for the car.

Finally, in some situations, a minor can enter into a binding contract and not have the right of cancellation. These situations generally involve contracts for necessaries such as good, clothing, shelter and medical care. The minor's parents may be held liable on contracts for necessaries. Contracts for medical care raise special questions and are addressed below."

 

It could be seen that my running a new website that is very similar to the one I did work for can bring about an "unfair result." In addition, it states that if a minor does hold his part of the contract, it is no longer voidable. I did perform my duties in the contract.

Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
The second paragraph is what I'm concerned with. It could be seen that my running a new website that is very similar to the one I did work for can bring about an "unfair result." In addition, it states that if a minor does hold his part of the contract, it is no longer voidable. I did perform my duties in the contract.
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There is nothing that would prevent the other party from trying to enforce the contract and claim that you unfairly benefitted from the employment and are using confidential or proprietary information. However, you could defend by using both the minor defense as well as showing that your venture is similar, but doesn't use any proprietary information.
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In my experience, the courts tend to hold the employer liable simply because they should have known better than to enter into a contractual relationship with a minor. The Bar opinion is just that, an opinion, and often such an opinion doesn't have any bearing on what happens in real life.
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If you were sued and your attorney then filed a motion to dismiss based on you being a minor, it is highly likely that the judge would grant the motion. It is kind of stuck in judge's heads that minor = voidable unless some severe injustice would result, like in the wrecked car example. But even then, I have seen cases where the judge said "you shouldn't have sold a car to a minor, tough luck for you" and refused to hold the minor liable.
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That doesn't mean that you won't have to defend a lawsuit, just that I would opine that you would win for the reasons stated above.
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Thanks
Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 24612
Experience: 14 years practicing attorney
Barrister and 5 other Employment Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.

Thanks so much for the positive rating and generous bonus, it is very much appreciated!

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It was my pleasure to work with you and help with your question. Please feel free to ask for me if you need help with anything in the future and I will do everything I can to help or get you to someone who can.

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Barrister

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

 


I apologize if this must be asked in another question, but I assumed I'd try here first:


 


Let's assume I can be held to the contract. If I do not avoid the contract, and act against it, is that seen as avoiding the contract, or am I able to be held to the contract?

Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.

I apologize if this must be asked in another question, but I assumed I'd try here first:

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No, you are fine and we can address it here. I want to make sure you are crystal clear on things...
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Let's assume I can be held to the contract. If I do not avoid the contract, and act against it, is that seen as avoiding the contract, or am I able to be held to the contract?

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Assuming that you were not allowed to be relieved from performance under the contract (although you know my thoughts on the matter) then we would assume that the non-compete would be binding and the former employer could try to enforce it if they thought that there was a violation.

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With that said, they would then have to prove that you are specifically violating the no compete contract that you are bound by. However in reading the language in your initial post, the employer is attempting to prevent you from starting any project even resembling the one that they have. If you are some type of programmer, then I would say that this is an overly broad restriction because courts will typically only enforce a noncompete if it is reasonable in duration and scope and is no more restrictive than is necessary to protect the employers proprietary or confidential information.

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So if you are not using any of the previous employer's information or work product in your project, then they may have a hard time enforcing the clause because you have simply built a "better mousetrap".

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Thanks

Barrister

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Some very crucial information I should have given: the contract states that the governing law of the contract is Canada.

Expert:  Barrister replied 1 year ago.
Ok, yes, that is kind of important because I am not a Canada law expert and only know US law....
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With that said, I hate to say it, but you would need to post a question in the Canada law category because everything I related is based on either Ohio law or general US law. However, I can't imagine that their laws are that much different than US laws. But then again, I simply don't know.
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Thanks
Barrister

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