Dec 14

Unjust Enrichment


Unjust Enrichment

Under Pennsylvania law, “when a person receives a benefit from another, and it would be unconscionable for the recipient to retain that benefit, the doctrine of unjust enrichment requires the recipient to make restitution. This is an “equitable” doctrine that will be imposed on the recipient an obligation in the nature of quasi contract.” Myers-Macomber Engineers v. M.L.W. Construction Corp., 271 Pa. Super. 484, 414 A.2d 357 (1979).
The concept of unjust enrichment serves the purpose of allowing for the enforcement of obligations that may not qualify as contractual. However, restitution for unjust enrichment is not predicated on a promise, but on the restoration of an unfair gain.

The cause of action of unjust enrichment arises where one party has obtained a benefit at the expense of another under circumstances that make it unfair for the recipient to retain the benefit without paying
for it.

In Pennsylvania, where unjust enrichment is found, the law implies a contract, which requires the defendant to pay to the plaintiff the value of the benefit conferred. Schenck v. K.E. David, Ltd., 446 Pa.Super. 94, 666 A.2d 327 (1995). The elements necessary to prove unjust enrichment are:
(1) benefits conferred on defendant by plaintiff;
(2) appreciation of such benefits by defendant; and
(3) acceptance and retention of such benefits under such circumstances that it would be inequitable for defendant to retain the benefit without payment of value. Id.

The application of the doctrine of unjust enrichment depends on the particular factual circumstances of the case at issue. In determining if the doctrine applies, the court’s focus is not on the intention of the parties, but rather on whether the defendant has been unjustly enriched. Id., 666 A.2d at 328. Accord Torchia v. Torchia, 346 Pa.Super. 229, 499 A.2d 581, 582 (1985) (“[t]o sustain a claim of unjust enrichment, a claimant must show that the party against whom recovery is sought either ‘wrongfully secured or passively received a benefit that it would be unconscionable for her to retain.’ ”)

If you believe that you have a cause of action based on the doctrine of unjust enrichment in Pennsylvania, please contact the lawyers at Kilgus Law Offices, LLC.


This article is intended to assist the reader as a learning aid, but does not consitute legal advice. The article is not written (nor is it intended to be used) for the purposes of avoiding penalties under any applicable law (e.g. Medicaid, Veterans, Social Security), not to promote, market or recommend any transaction or matter addressed and, given its purpose. Diligent effort was  made to ensure the accuracy of these materials, however, the author assumes no responsibility for the reader’s reliance of them an encourages the reader to seek legal advice if needed. Copyright 2016 Mary C. Kilgus, Esq. All rights reserved.