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Unjust enrichment

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Definition Edit

Unjust enrichment is a legal term in English and U.S. law and in several other jurisdictions denoting a particular type of causative event in which one party is unjustly enriched at the expense of another, and an obligation to make restitution arises, regardless of liability for wrongdoing.

Overview Edit

Courts appear to be split on whether there is an independent cause of action for unjust enrichment.[1] One view is that unjust enrichment is not a cause of action, or even a remedy, but rather a general principle, underlying various legal doctrines and remedies.[2] In McBride, the court construed a “purported” unjust enrichment claim as a cause of action seeking restitution.[3] There are at least two potential bases for a cause of action seeking restitution: (1) an alternative to breach of contract damages when the parties had a contract which was procured by fraud or is unenforceable for some reason; and (2) where the defendant obtained a benefit from the plaintiff by fraud, duress, conversion, or similar conduct and the plaintiff chooses not to sue in tort but to seek restitution on a quasi-contract theory.[4] In the latter case, the law implies a contract, or quasi-contract, without regard to the parties' intent, to avoid unjust enrichment.[5]

Another view is that a cause of action for unjust enrichment exists and its elements are receipt of a benefit and unjust retention of the benefit at the expense of another.[6]

References Edit

  1. Baggett v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 582 F.Supp.2d 1261, 1270-71 (C.D. Cal. 2007) (full-text) (applying California law).
  2. McBride v. Boughton, 123 Cal.App.4th 379, 387, 20 Cal.Rptr.3d 115 (2004) (full-text).
  3. Id.
  4. Id. at 388, 20 Cal.Rptr.3d at 115.
  5. Id.
  6. Lectrodryer v. SeoulBank, 77 Cal.App.4th 723, 726, 91 Cal.Rptr.2d 881 (2000) (full-text); First Nationwide Savings v. Perry, 11 Cal.App.4th 1657, 1662-63, 15 Cal.Rptr.2d 173 (1992) (full-text).


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