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Unjust Enrichment and Quantum Meruit Claims

In order to make a claim of unjust enrichment against another person, the claimant must show:

  1. The other person received a benefit;
  2. The claimant suffered a loss that somehow corresponded to the benefit of the other person; and
  3. There was no justifiable reason in law for the benefit and the loss.

If these three elements can be successfully proven by the claimant, then the unjust enrichment may be remedied by the court in two ways: a constructive trust (i.e., giving the claimant an interest in real property to which the unjust enrichment is connected) or a monetary award. These claims often arise in the estate context where the claimant has provided some kind of benefit, service, or work for the other person in exchange for the promise of an inheritance from the other person’s estate after he or she dies, yet after death, it is discovered that the inheritance is not forthcoming.

A quantum meruit claim is a claim for damages for recovery on a contract where the contract was not completed yet its terms are unenforceable. If the parties, by their conduct, have created a relationship that is contractual in nature, even if there exists no enforceable contract per se, and where an unjust enrichment to one of the parties can be proven and corroborated by third parties, then a quantum meruit claim may be made. For example, a quantum meruit claim may be made by a person where, prior to death, the deceased promised to pay or provide services or take some kind of action in exchange for services or some kind of action by the person, yet the deceased did not carry out his or her end of the deal either during his or her lifetime or after death through his or her estate planning.