Utah Unjust Enrichment Law Generally

If a plaintiff is unable to establish that a valid contract exists, a plaintiff may still have a claim under quantum meruit. “Quantum meruit is an equitable tool that allows a plaintiff to receive restitution for the reasonable value of services provided to the defendant. Emergency Physicians Integrated Care v. Salt Lake County, 167 P.3d 1080, ¶10 (Utah 2007).”  “Quantum meruit has two branches, contract implied in law (also referred to as ‘unjust enrichment’ or ‘quasi-contract’) and contract implied in fact.” Id. “Recovery under quantum meruit presupposes that no enforceable contract exists.”  Scheller v. Dixie Six Corp., 753 P.2d 971, 975 (Utah Ct. App. 1988).

Sometimes the terms “quantum meruit” and “unjust enrichment” are used interchangeably.  This is technically incorrect.  A contract implied-in-fact cause of action is distinct from an unjust enrichment cause of action, but both are equitable claims under the quantum meruit umbrella.

Elements of an Unjust Enrichment Claim

“To state a claim for unjust enrichment, a plaintiff must allege facts supporting three elements:

  1. a benefit conferred on one person by another;
  2. an appreciation or knowledge by the conferee of the benefit; and
  3. the acceptance or retention of the benefit under such circumstances as to make it inequitable for the conferee to retain the benefit without payment of its value.” Hess v. Johnston, 163 P.3d 747, 754 (Utah App., 2007).

Unjust enrichment is an equitable claim.  As an equitable claim, courts consider fairness standards in determining whether each of the elements have been met.

Damages

“[I]n an action for unjust enrichment, in those cases where there is a proper equitable basis for the same, the measure of damages, by the great weight of authority, is the reasonable value of the services rendered.”  Davies v. Olson, 746 P.2d 264, 269 (Utah Ct. App. 1987).  Establishing the reasonable value can be done in numerous ways, but it is sometimes necessary to retain an expert witness to testify to industry standards.

For more specific information about this particular subject, please call my office at 801-691-7770 for a free consultation or see the following web pages:

  1. Whiting & Jardine, LLC Home Page: www.WhitingJardine.com
  2. Collections: http://whitingjardine.com/practice_areas.php?part=collections
  3. Litigation: http://whitingjardine.com/services.php?part=litigation

Disclaimer: This blog is for general information and educational purposes only.  Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice for any particular situation.  The statements in this blog may be generalized, contain speculation, be based on opinion, or be made inaccurate by updates or clarifications to the law.  No attorney-client relationship is created by virtue of this blog.  To receive competent legal advice for your situation, you should seek competent, licensed legal counsel in the appropriate jurisdiction and practice area.

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