Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Can a Minor Hire a Private Detective?

Posted by Writing PIs on November 17, 2012

Photo is in public domain, courtesy Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress

Today we’re answering a reader’s question:

Could a minor hire a private detective?

Answer: A minor can hire a private detective so long as the minor’s request is legal.  In other words, just like with adults, a minor can’t hire a PI to conduct such illegal activities as harassment, stalking or  intimidation.

The minor must also have the ratification of the minor’s parents. This flows from a rule of contract law pertaining to a minor’s ability to enter into binding contracts. To paraphrase, this rule says that minors can enter into enforceable contracts so long as they have their parents’ assent.

Perhaps a more important question is…

Would a PI want to be hired by a minor?

A PI having his/her actions directed by someone under the age of 18 is exposing him/herself to liability and professional criticism. If something were to go wrong during the investigation — say, an unexpected confrontation between the PI and the object of the investigation — there could be a challenge to the PI’s exercise of professional judgement. Let’s say the object of the investigation, upset about the confrontation, files a professional negligence lawsuit against the PI, accusing him/her of harassment and invasion of privacy. The plaintiff might use, as a damning circumstance, that this so-called “professional” PI was taking orders from a minor. The PI could look bad, even very bad, in court when he/she admits they were working a case being directed by a teenager.

Great question!

Have a great week, Writing PIs

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