Compare/Contrast U.E Cases

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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Task: Compare and contrast the eight cases for Unjust Enrichment. Note, this is not the assignment I turned in as I had to shorten that one to two pages. This is the full version:

Bloomgarden V. Coyer
Utility
Bloomgarden serves as an introduction to unjust enrichment (U.E) and the two major defenses against a U.E claim; implied in fact contract and quasi contract. This case also provides the elements a court will use to determine the difference between conferring a benefit or a gift to the promisor.
General Rule Defined/Distinguished
The promisee must show that the promisor was unjustly enriched. A duty to pay will not be recognized where it is clear that:

  • Benefit was conferred gratuitously OR
  • Question of payment was left to the recipient OR
  • Services rendered simply to gain a business advantage OR
  • Plaintiff did not contemplate a personal fee or defendant could not reasonably have supposed he did OR
  • Uncommunicated expectation of renumeration

Because Bloomgarden clearly stated that he never expected payment for his services and that he hoped to gain business contacts from the connection he created, it can easily be argued that Bloomgarden meets each of these elements and should not receive any remedy under the theory of U.E.
General Rule Compared
Compare to Sparks where Sparks is an example of successful recovery under U.E because services rendered are not gratuitous. Though Sparks does not verbalize an expectation of compensation, his actions and the services rendered implicitly suggest a reasonable expectation of compensation unlike Bloomgarden.
Counter Defense
Bloomgarden would need to establish that there existed either an implied in fact contract or a quasi-contract between himself and Coyer. Because Bloomgarden did not put the defendant on reasonable notice of expected compensation, an implied in fact contract cannot be established. Furthermore, the court will only establish a quasi-contract in the absence of a valid contract (when agreement with consideration fails). Here, it is not enough for the plaintiff to prove merely that he has conferred an advantage over the defendant. He must also show that the retention of that benefit without compensation is unjust. Bloomgarden fails to provide evidence to suggest U.E and therefore the court does not grant him his quasi-contract.
Remedy
Nothing

Sparks V. Gustafson
Utility
Sparks is an example of the successful collection of a remedy under U.E. This case also establishes the clear difference between a business and friendship relationship and the conferment of a gift.
General Rule Defined/Distinguished
Is it unjust to allow the Estate to retain Gustafson’s benefits without compensation? Yes; Even where a person has conferred a benefit upon another, however, he is entitled to compensation only if it would be just and equitable to require compensation under the circumstances.
General Rule Compared
Like Bloomgarden, there is no established contract. Unlike Bloomgarden, however, the plaintiff can recover under U.E because he can prove a non-gratuitous benefit was conferred and it was unjust for the Estate to retain it without compensation. Unlike Bloomgarden, there does exist a reasonable expectation of compensation.
Counter Defense
The Estate would argue that Gustafson was performing the services as a gift for Sparks so it should still be considered a gift to the Estate. However, the Estate could have (and should have) asked Gustafson to stop rendering his services the moment Sparks died. The services performed by Gustafson are not that of which one would ordinarily expect to receive from a friend as a mere gratuity. The friendly relationship and transformed to a business relationship upon the death of Sparks. Remedy
$65,706.07 (the value of his services)

Gay V. Mooney
Utility
An example of the recovery of quantum meruit under U.E when a contract is non-binding due to Statute of Frauds.
General Rule Defined/Distinguished
A reasonable and proper expectation that there would be compensation for services rendered must be demonstrated to recover under U.E.
General Rule Compared
Compare to Posner where quantum meruit is severely limited unlike in this case where collection of quantum meruit is viable. This case is also comparable to Sparks where there exists a reasonable and proper expectation of compensation.
Counter Defense
Sure, there is U.E but the contract is not valid due to Statute of Frauds. However, under quantum meruit, the plaintiff is entitled to recover the actual or reasonable value of the services he performed.
Remedy
Quantum Meruit

Kearns V. Andree
Utility
An example of recovery under U.E w/o a benefit conferred upon on the promisor but when services have already been fully performed by the promisee.
General Rule Defined/Distinguished
The plaintiff is entitled to recover the reasonable value of his service performed even when there is no actual benefit conferred upon the defendant when it was reasonable and expect that the defendant was going to benefit. It is important to note that Kearns was entitled to recover for the services he performed for Andree and not the ones he performed for the third-party buyer in this case.
General Rule Compared
Compare to Gay where a benefit was clearly conferred unlike in this case. Both cases are examples of quantum meruit recover under U.E, however, the distinction lies in the conferment of a benefit. We now see that a tangible beneficial conferment may not be a strict requirement for recovery under U.E.
Counter Defense
There was no actual benefit conferred upon the defendant so it can be argued that Andree was technically not unjustly enriched. However, in this case, there was a reasonable expectation that defendant would have benefit from Kearn’s services and, hence, has been impliedly unjustly enriched.
Remedy
Quantum Meruit on the services Kearns already performed for Andree and not the third-party buyer.

Posner V. Seder
Utility
An example of how expectancy recovery can be better than quantum meruit (the limits of U.E).
General Rule Defined/Distinguished
A party injured by a repudiated contract may recover only the reasonable value of his services as if the contract had never existed.
General Rule Compared
This case is majorly comparable to Kearns and Gay where all three are examples of recovery under quantum meruit. However, in Posner, we see the limitations of quantum meruit where Posner collects nothing.
Counter Defense
Posner tries to make an argument for expectancy even though he’s already accepted the contract as repudiated. Had he made the argument for breach of contract he may have been able to recover expectancy under the theory of agreement w/consideration and may have been awarded more than the “fair market value” of his services.
Remedy
Nothing. He had already been paid the value of his services (quantum meruit).

Kelley V. Hance
Utility
This is an example of a contract with no divisibility and partial performance before abandonment. The promisor cannot be unjustly enriched if the benefit is not approved and forced upon them. Quantum meruit is not warranted.
General Rule Defined/Distinguished
Except where there has been actual acceptance of the work prior to its abandonment by the plaintiff, mere inaction on the part of the defendant will not be treated as an acceptance of the work from which a promise to pay for it may be implied. An employment contract, unlike the sidewalk contract, is also inherently divisible which helped Britton’s U.E case.
General Rule Compared
Compare directly with Britton where both are cases of abandoned contracts. However, unlike Turner, Hance does not receive nor accept a real benefit from Kelley. Turner receives a benefit from Britton’s services as an employee before his abandonment. Britton, unlike Kelley, is entitled to recovery under U.E for substantial performance.
Counter Defense
Kelley will argue that he had partial performance and should receive quantum meruit based on the value of his services. However, in this case, Hance had not accepted the partial benefit (digging a hole) and instead only accepted the service of a completed sidewalk which Kelley abandoned. Hance cannot “give” the benefit (the destruction of his land) back to Kelley and therefore Hance has had U.E forced upon him. Hance could not avoid receiving the benefit and was powerless to return it; no U.E.
Remedy
Nothing. No U.E; no quantum meruit.

Britton V. Turner
Utility

This is an example of an abandoned employment contract with substantial performance and successful recovery of quantum meruit under U.E.
General Rule Defined/Distinguished

Plaintiff is entitled to recover quantum meruit for substantial performance of a divisible employment contract where the promisor (employer) has already received beneficial services from the promisee (employee). Quantum meruit in this case is calculated as: value of the services rendered – any damages incurred by the defendant for the breach.
General Rule Compared

Compare to Kelley where is was expected that the contract for a sidewalk were wholly performed for compensation. Hance did not receive a beneficial service unlike Turner. Though Kelley and Britton both breached, only Britton gets to recover quantum meruit under U.E. The rule here binds the employer to pay the value of the service he actually received. We could also draw distinctions between this case and Posner where Britton is still owed the value of his services unlike Posner who had already been paid. Counter Defense
Turner will argue that Britton breached the contract by abandoning it and therefore he owes him nothing perhaps citing the Kelley case. However, Britton proves evidence of substantial performance and benefit conferred upon Turner. Turner could have shown that Britton’s breach caused significant damage which would bar Britton from recovery, however, no evidence in that regard was entered.
Remedy

Quantum meruit: $95

Watts V. Watts
Utility
This is an example of a special case of cohabitation (no marriage) with U.E.
General Rule Defined/Distinguished

Co-habitating partners are entitled to wealth where separation would cause U.E on either side where there is unjust retention of benefits conferred over the time of the relationship.
General Rule Compared

This case is special and not significantly comparable to the others other than the fact that there exists U.E and an implied contract of a relationship (not solely based in sexual activity).
Counter Defense

The counter defense is that the couple is not married and therefore Mrs. Watts should not be able to recover.
Remedy

Grant Mrs. Watts a trial
Special Case

Yes, this is a novel case that extends the definition of U.E to unmarried cohabitation cases.

 

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