quantum meruit


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Related to quantum meruit: Quantum valebat

Quantum Meruit

[Latin, As much as is deserved.] In the law of contracts, a doctrine by which the law infers a promise to pay a reasonable amount for labor and materials furnished, even in the absence of a specific legally enforceable agreement between the parties.

A party who performs a valuable service for another party usually enters into a written contract or agreement before performing the service, particularly when the party is in the business of performing that service. For instance, most professional roofers hired to repair a roof insist on having a formal agreement with the owner of the house before beginning the repairs. In the absence of an agreement or formal contract, the roofer may be unable to recover losses in court if the transaction goes awry. Quantum meruit is a judicial doctrine that allows a party to recover losses in the absence of an agreement or binding contract.

By allowing the recovery of the value of labor and materials, quantum meruit prevents the Unjust Enrichment of the other party. A person would be unjustly enriched if she received a benefit and did not pay for it when fairness required that payment be made. Quantum meruit can be used to address situations where no contract exists or where a contract exists but for some reason is unenforceable. In such cases courts imply a contract to avoid an unjust result. Such contracts are called quasi contracts.

Quantum meruit also describes a method used to determine the exact amount owed to a person. A court may measure this amount either by determining how much the defendant has benefited from the transaction or by determining how much the plaintiff has expended in materials and services.

The doctrine of quantum meruit was developed in the seventeenth century by the royal Court of Chancery in England. This court worked apart from the common-law courts to grant relief that was due under general principles of fairness but could not be obtained under the strict legal precedents of the common-law courts. The system of basing decisions on basic principles of fairness became known as Equity. The Chancery Court developed quantum meruit along with other equitable doctrines that allowed a person to recover or collect for other valuable acts performed without a contract, such as the delivery of goods or money. Some of the first cases of quantum meruit involved recovery by persons in so-called trades of common calling, such as innkeepers, tailors, blacksmiths, and tanners.

As service industries increased, so did claims for recovery under quantum meruit, and the doctrine was adopted by colonial courts. U.S. courts now apply quantum meruit principles in a wide variety of cases, including cases involving attorneys' fees, physicians' fees, construction work, government contracts, and even domestic relations suits for "palimony." Palimony is a form of financial support that is similar to Alimony but arises out of a nonmarital relationship.

Courts have crafted four basic elements that the plaintiff must prove before she may recover under the doctrine of quantum meruit: (1) that valuable services were rendered; (2) that the services were rendered to the defendant; (3) that the services were accepted, used, and enjoyed by the defendant; and (4) that the defendant was aware that the plaintiff, in performing the services, expected to be paid by the defendant.

The case of Montes v. Naismith and Trevino Construction Co., 459 S.W.2d 691 (Tex. Civ. App. 1970), illustrates how quantum meruit works. In August 1968 Abraham Montes began oral negotiations with Abdon Perez regarding improvements Montes sought for his homestead. Perez testified that Montes brought a contract to him more than once, but that the contract was never complete, and no contract was ever signed. Despite the lack of a contract, Perez arranged for the Naismith and Trevino Construction Company to do the work on Montes's house. Montes paid $1,800 to Perez, and Perez withdrew from the transaction.

Naismith and Trevino made improvements on Montes's homestead for a total value of $3,835.36, but Montes refused to pay for the improvements. Naismith and Trevino brought suit against Montes, arguing that even though they did not have a contract with Montes, they should be paid for their labor and the materials they used in making improvements to his house. The court agreed and entered judgment for Naismith and Trevino in the amount of $1,760, the amount of the services and materials provided by Naismith and Trevino less the amount Montes had paid to Perez. The court based its ruling on the theory of quantum meruit.

The doctrine of quantum meruit is contained in court decisions and, to a lesser extent, in statutes. It can be a confusing doctrine: many courts mix quantum meruit with the similar principles of restitution and unjust enrichment. Restitution is a broad term that describes measures taken by a civil or criminal defendant to restore a victim to the status that he enjoyed before the defendant caused a loss or injury. Unjust enrichment is an equitable approach to civil relationships that covers more than just contractual situations. A civil plaintiff may recover under the doctrine of unjust enrichment by showing (1) that the plaintiff conferred a benefit on the defendant; (2) that the defendant appreciated or knew of the benefit; and (3) that, under the circumstances, it was unfair for the defendant to accept or retain the benefit without paying for it. Most courts consider quantum meruit a particular form of legal restitution that follows the basic restitutionary principle of preventing unjust enrichment.

Further readings

Rendleman, Doug. 2001. "Quantum Meruit for the Subcontractor: Has Restitution Jumped Off Dawson's Deck?" Texas Law Review 79 (June).

Sloan, Judy Beckner. 1992. "Quantum Meruit: Residual Equity in Law." DePaul Law Review 42 (fall).

Smith, Laura A. 1997. "The Louisiana Supreme Court Modifies the Quantum Meruit Test Used to Allocate Fees to Attorneys Fired for Cause from Contingency Fee Agreements." Tulane Law Review 71 (June).

quantum meruit

(kwahn-tuhm mare-ooh-it) n. Latin for "as much as he deserved," the actual value of services performed. Quantum meruit determines the amount to be paid for services when no contract exists or when there is doubt as to the amount due for the work performed but done under circumstances when payment could be expected. This may include a physician's emergency aid, legal work when there was no contract, or evaluating the amount due when outside forces cause a job to be terminated unexpectedly. If a person sues for payment for services in such circumstances the judge or jury will calculate the amount due based on time and usual rate of pay or the customary charge, based on "quantum meruit" by implying a contract existed.

quantum meruit

‘as much as deserved’, an award to a party on the basis of an implied contract. In England it is also used to describe payments made on the basis of restitution. See QUANTUM LUCRATUS, RECOMPENSE.

QUANTUM MERUIT, pleading. As much as he has deserved. When a person employs another to do work for him, without any agreement as to his compensation, the law implies a promise from, the employer to the workman that he will pay him for his services, as much as be may deserve or merit. In such case the plaintiff may suggest in his declaration that the defendant promised to pay him as much as he reasonably deserved, and then aver that his trouble was worth such a sum of money, which the defendant has omitted to pay. This is called an assumpsit on a quantum meruit. 2 Bl. Com. 162, 3 1 Vin. Ab. 346; 2 Phil. Ev. 82.
     2. When there is an express contract for a stipulated amount and mode of compensation for services, the plaintiff cannot abandon the contract and resort to an action for a quantum meruit on an implied assumpsit. 18 John. R. 169; 14 John. R. 326; 10 Serg. & Rawle, 236. Sed vide 7 Cranch, 299; Stark. R. 277; S., C. Holt's N. P. 236; 10 John. Rep. 36; 12 John. R. 374; 13 John. R. 56, 94, 359; 14 John. R. 326; 5 M. & W. 114; 4 C. & P. 93; 4 Sc. N. S. 374; 4 Taunt. 475; 1 Ad. & E. 333; Addis. on Contr. 214.

References in periodicals archive ?
COA, the Court ruled that recovery on the basis of quantum meruit should be allowed despite the invalidity or absence of a written contract between the contractor and the government where denial of the contractor's claim would result in the government unjustly enriching itself.
The Court also vacated the Commission's decision of the Companies state-law quantum meruit claims.
Under this view, the old firm could recover only in quantum meruit for the services it performed before the clients left with Frates.
The district court also determined that A Plus' quantum meruit and unjust enrichment claims were barred under the provision as well.
In fact, the trial judge in Bond awarded quantum meruit for failure of consideration.
If the scope of work and payment for that scope are clearly defined (or the LOI is drafted as an early works contract), an expiry date may not be necessary and its absence will reduce the chances of any claim for payment by a contractor on a quantum meruit basis.
Sorensen: Plaintiff alleges breach of contract and quantum meruit. Suit seeks $41,805.
In theory, quantum meruit comprises two distinct but related doctrines: (1) quasi-contract (also called unjust enrichment or contract implied in law), a noncontract remedy calling for restitutionary damages equal to the value received by the defendant; and (2) contract implied in fact, in which a valid contract is formed, not by the parties' words, but by their conduct, for the breach of which the appropriate measure of damages is the price intended by the parties, or a reasonable market value when no price is expressed by them.
Finally, citing Smith v Bogard, 377 Ill App 3d 842, 879 NE2d 543 (4th D 2007), they argued that allowing the construction company to recover in quantum meruit under Count III would reward deceptive practices and violate public policy.
Typically, where one provides services even without a written and signed agreement, a plaintiff may be able to recover under a theory of breach of contract and/or"quantum meruit" The highest state court in New York, the Court of Appeals, addressed this very issue and held that an insurance broker's action to recover fees for services rendered to an insured was barred by Section 2119.
Although he could not plainly demonstrate he had a deal for the house, the Supreme Court of Canada thought he should be paid for the errands he performed at the aunt's request, an equitable remedy known as quantum meruit. The Supreme Court said Aunt Laura would have been unjustly enriched by George if she did not pay something for those errands.