Unjust Enrichment and Quantum Meruit Claims

Unjust enrichment is a doctrine in equity where (1) one party enriched/benefitted another (2) to their detriment (and (3) there is no juristic reason for the enrichment).

Common Law Spouse

Unjust enrichment claims usually arises in cases with common law spouses as unlike married spouses, common law spouses have no statutory property rights. Their claims are restricted to resulting/constructive trust claims (and the rare implied trust).

A common law spouse whose partner passes away may have a claim for unjust enrichment if the deceased received an unfair benefit at their expense. For example, contributing to the household chores, caregiving of their partner when alive, or financially contributing are all examples of time and/or money that was lost which benefited the deceased.

It would not be fair (or can be justified in law) to allow the deceased’s estate to retain the benefit.

An unjust enrichment claim can be for money or share in a property. The approach is “value surviving” meaning if the surviving common law spouse put money into an asset owned by the deceased and the value fell, the court only awards an amount equal to the amount that the asset is valued (not a dollar-for-dollar monetary award for amount contributed).

In addition to claims in equity, common law spouses are entitled to support (link).

Quantum Meruit

“Quantum meruit” is a Latin phrase meaning “for services rendered.”  This is a claim to recover damages on a contract where the contract was not yet completed and its terms are unenforceable. However, the parties conducted themselves in a way that created a relationship contractual in nature.

Where unjust enrichment can be proven, a quantum meruit claim may also be made. An example is where the deceased promised to pay for a service, but passed away before he was able to do so.

What to do next

We understand that this is a difficult time for you and your family and this is merely a brief overview of the law regarding unjust enrichment. Your best interest is our main concern and we make sure to adopt cost-effective solutions in a timely manner.

We will explain your rights and options in a manner that is easy for you to understand.

We also offer a free consultation, which is an opportunity for you to speak to a lawyer.

Unjust Enrichment and Quantum Meruit

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