The Legal Mechanics of Quantum Meruit
What is Quantum Meruit?
Quantum meruit (Latin for “as much as he has deserved”) is an equitable remedy that provides restitution for unjust enrichment. Unjust enrichment describes the scenario where one’s actions provide a valuable service to another thus requiring compensation even without the existence of a previously formed contract. In other words, a claim for quantum meruit is an action to recover the reasonable value of services rendered by one party to another usually based on a theory of quasi-contract. Quantum meruit is ordered at the conclusion of litigation or pursuant to an agreement. A court that awards quantum meruit will consider the reasonableness of the amount to make the aggrieved party whole. In the realm of construction disputes, proving quasi-contractual obligations for the purposes of quantum meruit can prove to be quite a complex process.
Quasi-Contracts & Quantum Meruit
A quasi-contract is an obligation imposed by law to prevent unjust enrichment for agreements that do not rise to level of contractual obligation but for fairness and public policy reasons. Therefore, a court can pronounce that an act amounts to a quasi-contract where no true contract exists. Quasi-contracts are also known as contracts implied-in-law or constructive contracts. Quasi-contracts do not adhere to the same rules as traditional contracts so concepts like mutual assent (i.e. “a meeting of the minds”) are not necessary for a court to impose the obligation. The remedy under quasi-contract is usually restitution. Further, there is no general litmus test for quasi-contract cases as each case is determined on its own facts and circumstances. So what does a quasi-contract look like in the construction world?
Quasi-Contracts in Construction Law
One example of a quasi-contract warranting quantum meruit is in the case of an emergency construction task while on a job with a pre-existing contract. In this scenario, while renovating a house, a contractor finds a structural defect that will cause irreparable and imminent damage to the building if it is not addressed immediately. The contractor attempts to get in touch with the owner of the house to no avail. The owner has required the contractor to seek approval for any work that is out of the scope of the contract. Further, the structure of the building is not within the scope of the contract. The contractor moves ahead to fix the structural defect. Subsequently, the contractor sends the owner an invoice for her work on the structural defect. The owner refuses to pay. In this case, although there was no mutual assent as to any structural defect, a court may award the contractor restitution given the dire need to address the structural defect.
Fort Lauderdale Construction Attorney
Getting an award for quantum meruit is the final step when a court determines that a quasi-contract existed. However, the first part is identifying that a quasi-contract was formed. Attorney Brendan A. Sweeney has years of experience advising on construction contracts and the many nuances involved in construction projects. Contact us now for a consultation.