Definition[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

  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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