A claim for unjust enrichment


Law Lessons from Hermanns v. Hermanns, N.J. Chancery Div. (Contillo, P.J. Ch.), DOCKET No. BER-C-029-16, August 23, 2017:

To state a claim for unjust enrichment, a plaintiff must allege

(i) that the defendant received a benefit,
(ii) that retention of that benefit without payment would be unjust,
(iii) that the plaintiff expected remuneration from the defendant at the time he conferred the benefit, and
(iv) that a reasonable person in the defendant’s position would have expected to provide remuneration for the benefit.

Id. at 12 (quoting VRG Corp. v. GKN Realty Corp., 135 N.J. 539, 554 (1994)) (citing Nat’l Amusement, Inc. v. New Jersey Turnpike Auth., 261 N.J. Super. 468, 47778 (Law Div. 1992); Avery v. Sielcken-Schwarz, 5 N.J. Super. 195, 200 (App. Div. 1949)).

Our Supreme Court most succinctly stated the necessary elements of a cause of action for unjust enrichment in Thieme v. Aucoin-Thieme, 227 N.J. 269, 288 (2016) as follows:

To prove a claim for unjust enrichment, a party must demonstrate that the opposing party “received a benefit and that retention of that benefit without payment would be unjust.” Iliadis v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 191 N.J. 88, 110 (2007) (quoting VRG Corp. v. GKN Realty Corp., 135 N.J. 539, 554 (1994)). “That quasi-contract doctrine also ‘requires that plaintiff show that it expected remuneration from the defendant at the time it performed or conferred a benefit on defendant and that the failure of remuneration enriched defendant beyond its contractual rights.’” Ibid. (quoting VRG Corp., supra, 135 N.J. at 554).

Stated differently, “unjust enrichment is an equitable remedy resorted to only when there was no express contract providing for remuneration[.]” Caputo v. Nice-Pak Products, Inc., 300 N.J. Super. 498, 507 (App. Div. 1997).

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