Law Lessons from First American Title Ins. Co. v. Bayoh, N.J. Super. Law Div. (Mitterhoff, J.S.C.), DOCKET NO.: ESX-L-4539-17, NOVEMBER 3, 2017:
To state a claim for unjust enrichment under New Jersey law, a plaintiff must allege:
(1) that defendant has received a benefit from the plaintiff; and
(2) that the retention of that benefit without payment would be unjust.
VRG Corp. v. GKN Realty Corp., 135 N.J. 539, 544 (1994).
Unjust enrichment is a form of quasi-contractual liability that only exists when a party has received a benefit that would be inequitable for the party to retain. Id. In addition, Plaintiff must 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 right.” Iliadis v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 135 N.J. 539, 554 (1994). Plaintiff is “not entitled to employ the legal fiction of quasi-contract to substitute one promisor or debtor for another” except where it may be concluded that Defendant is the proper party to the action based on an implied contract. See Callano v. Oakwood Park Homes Corp., 91 N.J. Super. 105, 109-110 (App. Div. 1996); State v. Cherry Hill Mitsubishi, 439 N.J. Super. 462, 471 (App. Div. 2015).
In Callano, supra, the defendant sold a home to a decedent who ordered shrubbery from the plaintiffs to be placed on the property. The shrubbery was placed on the property but the decedent died before payment was made to the plaintiffs. The defendant sold the home with the shrubbery on the property. The plaintiffs then sued the defendant for unjust enrichment received from the increase in the value to the property because of the shrubbery. The court stated that plaintiffs had no cause of action against defendant for unjust enrichment. To receive value for the shrubbery, the appellate court said that the plaintiffs had no dealings with defendant and did not expect remuneration from the defendants when they provided the shrubbery. The court noted that there was no issue of mistake and thus the proper course of action was to sue decedent’s estate.
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