Recovering Through Unjust Enrichment aka Restitution

While compensatory damages provide a plaintiff with a monetary recovery, sometimes the remedy of unjust enrichment is an excellent solution to a legal dispute.  Unjust enrichment, known as restitution, is based on the general equitable principle that a person should not be permitted to profit at another’s expense without reasonable compensation for any property, services, or other benefits that have been unfairly received and retained. 

Three Reasons for Unjust Enrichment

Generally, there are three reasons why a plaintiff would seek unjust enrichment instead of damages. First, depending on the situation, it may allow the plaintiff to recover more money than normal compensatory damages. This is because the market value of the damages may not compare to the actual amount the defendant was enriched. Second, it may be the only way to win the case when there is no oral or written contract. 

The court may find that there is a “quasi-contract” or contract implied in law. Because contract law won’t allow recovery without an enforceable oral or written contract, the law creates a “pretend” contract so that the plaintiff can recover. Third, certain types of recovery through unjust enrichment will allow priority in bankruptcy. If the defendant is insolvent the law creates a constructive trust which provides that the defendant was holding something that never really belonged to him or her, but really belonged to the plaintiff.  Thus, the law puts the plaintiff ahead of other creditors because that money is rightfully the plaintiff’s. 

Unjust Enrichment in Some Situations 

There are a handful of situations where the law allows recovery based on unjust enrichment.  For instance, unjust enrichment may be available when a plaintiff confers a benefit on the defendant by mistake. Because the benefit to the defendant is at the plaintiff’s expense and it is an innocent mistake, the law recognizes this as an appropriate remedy. Another situation is where an emergency service is performed and the person is required to pay later. On the other hand, when the defendant is really bad or has done something that the court feels should be deterred, unjust enrichment can be proper. Moreover, statutes can create restitution rights depending on the applicable state. 

Although there are a number of remedies that the law recognizes, it is important to understand the facts of each situation. That is why you have to have a pragmatic and experienced attorney like Eric Lanigan or Roddy Lanigan who can recognize a realistic solution to a legal dispute. Schedule an appointment with Central Florida law firm Lanigan and Lanigan P.L., if you have any questions about your recovery.