Alex Nash, 5, and his dad Derek (courtesy the Plymouth Herald)

Alex Nash, 5, and his dad Derek (courtesy the Plymouth Herald)

Does this give new meaning to “party pooper?”

A 5-year-old British boy didn’t make it to his friend’s birthday party, and now the mother of his friend has given him a $24 bill to pay up for not showing up.

It all started before Christmas when youngster Alex Nash of Cornwall, England, a student at Torpoint Nursery and Infant School, was invited to a classmate’s birthday party to be held at the Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Centre.

Alex told his parents he’d like to go, so they informed the birthday boy’s mother, Julie Lawrence, that he’d be there.

Alex’s dad, Derek Nash, told the Plymouth Herald: “She saw me and asked if Alex was coming to the party. At this time I agreed and said that Alex was looking forward to it.”

Alex’s parents later realized they had double-booked the day, as Alex and his sister were also slated to visit their grandparents.

“By this time we did not have a contact number, email or an address to let [the boy’s mother] know,” Derek Nash told the paper. “So on the day of the party we asked Alex what he wanted to do; he chose to be with his grandparents.”

On Jan. 6, once school was back in session after the holidays, Alex’s mother, Tanya Walsh, tried finding Lawrence to apologize for her son being a no-show at the party, but was unable to find her.

“But on January 15 she looked in Alex’s school bag and found a brown envelope. It was an invoice for £15.95 ($24) for a child’s party no-show fee,” Mr. Nash said.

“I asked Alex’s class teacher if [the child’s mother] had given anything to her. She said, ‘Yes, a brown envelope.’

“I then visited Alex’s school headteacher, who couldn’t apologize enough that one of the teachers had passed this on. She said she would remind all staff that this was a breach of protocol.

“I left the school and went to see [the birthday boy’s mother] as her address was on the invoice. When she answered the door I told her I had found the invoice in my son’s school bag and that I wasn’t happy about it. I told her I would not be paying her the money. I told her she should have spoken to me first and not put the invoice in my son’s school bag.”

He added: “I would have sympathized with her about the cost of Alex not showing up, but I just can’t believe the way she has gone around it.”

Mr. Nash, a delivery driver, told the Herald: “I drive all around the South West for my job and I have talked to quite a few people about this. They’re all quite incredulous that this has happened. I thought it was a joke to begin with. I am lost for words.”

He later told BBC News, “I can understand that she’s upset about losing money. The money isn’t the issue; it’s the way she went about trying to get the money from me. She didn’t treat me like a human being. She treated me like a child and that I should do what she says.”

In a short statement, Lawrence said: “All details were on the party invite. They had every detail needed to contact me.”

The dispute may end up going to small-claims court.

Clive Coleman, a legal correspondent for BBC News, said it was “all but impossible” for Lawrence to recover any “no-show fee.” He explains:

For there to be a contract, there needs to be an intention to create legal relations. A child’s party invitation would not create legal relations with either the child “guest” or its parents.

If it is being argued that the contract is with the child, it is inconceivable that a 5-year-old would be seen by a court as capable of creating legal relations and entering into a contract with a “no show” charge.

It’s amusing to imagine what a children’s party invitation seeking to create a contract might say: “I, the ‘first party,’ hereinafter referred to as the ‘birthday boy,’ cordially invite you the ‘second party,’ hereinafter referred to as ‘my best friend,’ to the party of “the first party.”

In the meantime, Alex says his classmate won’t play with him anymore after he didn’t attend the party.

Alex’s mother has been hashing out the issue with Julie Lawrence on Facebook.

Here is their conversation:

Tanya Walsh

Hi Julie. This is Alex’s mum. I don’t know what has happened between you and my partner, Derek. I was very shocked to see the invoice in Alex’s school bag. I did not realise that you had to pay for each child, as you never mentioned anything about money when we spoke. The only reason Alex did not attend the party was because his nan and grandad were going away for Christmas and the only day the kids could go see them was on the same day as the party. I did not know this. On the day Alex decided that he wanted to spend time with his nan and grandad. I apologise for not letting you know, but I did not have a phone number or an e-mail for you to let you know the situation(I also didn’t know your first name, or I would have looked you up). If I had known that I would have to pay if Alex did not go, then I would have paid you the money, no problem. I do not like fighting with people, and would prefer to settle this amicably.

Julie Lawrence

Hi Tanya, I didn’t mention the money when we spoke because it was a child’s party, it doesn’t matter if you have to pay per person or for a group if people agree to going, I confirmed that with all parents on the Thursday before the party that they were going as I had to pay that day, and Derek told me Alex was looking forward to it and would see us there, to me that is confirmation. My phone number was on the invitation that was sent out to Alex. I don’t like fighting with people either, and was not best impressed when Derek turned up on my doorstep, and said you won’t get any money out of me, rather rudely, I do admit it rattled me. This is not the first time Alex has not turned up to a party that he has been invited to, either. the amicable way round this I believe would be to pay me the money and let a lesson be learnt, I hope this is agreeable? Julie

Tanya Walsh

Hi Julie, who’s party is Alex supposed to have gone to? I did speak to another mum about a party but she never got back to me with details, other than that I don’t recall any other confirmed invites. The only reason Derek was angry was because of the fact that the envelope was put into Alex’s school bag, when it has nothing to do with the school. He spoke to the headteacher about and she said that it’s against school policy to do that kind of thing. Birthday invites are fine, but not personal items. Like I said before, no money was mentioned when we spoke, and I feel it would be inappropriate to pay you the money, when I don’t know what it’s actually paying for. Alex was very excited to go to the party. I didn’t know until the day about his nan and grandad, and he decided he would rather spend the day with them. Like I said before I didn’t have your number to let you know. And exactly what lesson would I be learning. I am not a child, so please do not speak to me like I am one. So, to answer your question, unfortunately no. This is not agreeable.

Julie Lawrence

You are paying for 1 x child’s party at the ski slope including snow tubing and tobogganing and lunch, to with you said Alex was attending on the Thursday

Tanya Walsh

Just so you know, small claims court cost #60 just to start a claim. Also I’m not paying for something we didn’t use.

Julie Lawrence

It doesn’t cost that much

Tanya Walsh

It does. Also I don’t think the school are very happy with you involving them in this either. I don’t know why you are out for our blood and slandering us. I’ve told you the reasons why alex didn’t go. I also told you why I couldn’t call. You also don’t seem to understand that I never ran away from you. I didnt hear you calling after me. I have to get to my daughter at carbeile. So if they let alex out last then I have to rush a bit because evie, my 2 year old, walks slow. So maybe that’s why you thought I was rushing off. I had no reason to run to run away from you. So please do not state things as truth when you do not have all the facts. Maybe if you actually spoke to me rather than making your own mind up about what happened then none of this would be happening right now. If you had come up to us the first day back and explained about the money, then I could have explained about alex, then maybe we could have sorted something out. Instead you send an invoice.

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