Course Description

601:566. RESTITUTION (3)


The law of restitution involves those cases in which the defendant has received a benefit from the plaintiff and the court determines that it would be unjust for the defendant to retain that benefit without paying for it. These cases are often addressed in the opinions by other names—unjust enrichment, quasi-contract, contract implied in law, quantum meruit, quantum valebat. All of these cases have recently been systematized into a common framework.

Examples include the following:

A doctor encounters an unconscious accident victim and renders medical assistance. The patient does not regain consciousness and does not consent to the treatment. Must the victim’s estate pay for the care received?

I pay your credit card bill by mistake. Should I be able to recover that payment? If so, from whom—from you or from the bank that received payment?

As a basis of liability, restitution is as fundamental as contract or tort. Restitutionary claims arise across the entire range of private law and, though frequently overlooked, is an essential part of the analysis of legal problems in the private law. Moreover, restitutionary remedies are among the most powerful available to a plaintiff—the constructive trust, the equitable lien, accounting, subrogation, and others.

Everyone who intends to practice in the private law should consider this course.