A 5-year-old boy in Plymouth, England, was given a $24 invoice for missing a friend's birthday party in an unusual dispute that appears to be heading to court.
Alex Nash was supposed to attend the party at a local ski park in December, where kids were treated to snow tubing, tobogganing and lunch. However, Alex's parents said they realized at the last minute that he also had plans to see his grandparents that day.
"We asked Alex what he wanted to do," Alex's dad, Derek Nash, told Sky News. "He chose to be with his grandparents."
Nash said he didn't have contact information for the birthday boy's parents so he intended to apologize later.
Instead, Alex came home from school on Jan. 15 with an invoice in his backpack.
The bill, dated Dec. 14, lists "1 Childs Party No Show Fee" at a cost of 15.95 pounds, or $24.
“I thought it was a joke to begin with. I am lost for words," Nash told the Plymouth Herald.
Nash said he visited the birthday boy's mother and told her he had no intention of paying.
"I told her she should have spoken to me first and not put the invoice in my son’s school bag," the Herald quoted him as saying.
The Daily Telegraph has published what it says is a Facebook conversation between Tanya Walsh (Alex's mother) and Julie Lawrence (the mother of the birthday boy).
"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," Walsh wrote. "I do not like fighting with people, and would prefer to settle this amicably."
"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," Lawrence replied. "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?"
Walsh did not find that agreeable and Lawrence is now threatening to take the matter to court.
Clive Coleman, legal correspondent for the BBC, said on the network's website that the parents would have a hard time collecting the money.
"(F)or 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," Coleman wrote.
The Plymouth Ski and Snowboard Centre, where the party was held, is listed in the delivery address of the invoice. But the company wrote on its Facebook page that it wants nothing to do with the dispute.
"No invoices are ever sent out from the centre to private individuals," the company said. "This is a disagreement between the two parents involved and the fact that the centre has been named on the invoice is fraudulent.
But the biggest victim here may be a childhood friendship: Alex said his friend has stopped playing with him, the Herald reported.