Updated November 4, 2020:

A quantum meruit claim relates to the amount paid for services if a contract doesn't exist.

What is a Quantum Meruit Claim?

Quantum meruit, which is a Latin term, means "as much as he had earned." This term references the specific value of services provided. In legal usage, quantum meruit states that someone must not be forced to pay an amount that exceeds the total cost of services.

Since quantum meruit is a payment, it can apply as a civil lawsuit remedy. This occurs when a transaction for services and goods occurred without a written contract that states the total amount due. If someone sues for payment, the courts will calculate the cost based on the time and typical pay rate. 

Examples of quantum meruit include legal work performed without a contract, emergency aid provided by a physician, or determining the total amount due when the task ended unexpectedly. Another quantum meruit claim occurs when an individual had made a promise to pay or offer a service in exchange for other services. However, the individual died before completing the deal, so the other party can claim quantum meruit.

Quantum Meruit Usage

It's important to prove that quantum meruit exists since it can be confused with unjust enrichment. Both prevent one party from taking advantage of the other and receiving services without paying for them. However, unjust enrichment focuses on failing to pay aspect whereas quantum meruit deals with the amount owed. 

Quantum meruit occurs when you receive services from another party, oftentimes unexpected, without signing a contract stating payment or knowing what the price is.  You do not need a written agreement to establish a contract-based relationship. If you provide services to a separate party, who either asked or accepted these services, and that party knows those services are not free, a contract exists. 

If the other party fails or refuses to pay, you can file a civil lawsuit. You will need to prove that you asked for the services or had a chance to decline them if you didn't intend to pay. Providing services without allowing you an opportunity to decline doesn't usually land under the quantum meruit theory.

On the other hand, if you enter the contract and the provider didn't complete the services, you can bring the issue of fair payment to court. The other party might not finish the service due to a variety of reasons, such as an accident on the job. 

In case the work is not completed, you can apply the theory of quantum meruit to figure if you owe any money. If you do, the courts can determine the amount and who should receive it. The court's decision depends on several factors:

  • The contract's specifics
  • The type of services performed
  • The circumstances that caused the work to stop

In order to have a successful quantum meruit claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant agreed to the services provided by the plaintiff and expected to pay the plaintiff. The plaintiff also must prove that the defendant was unjustly enriched, which means that the party received goods or services at no cost.

When judgment is given in a quantum meruit case, especially if there is no written contract stating a specific monetary amount, the courts decide the amount. The total usually comes from a fair market value for the services provided. 

When Can a Claim on a Quantum Meruit Arise?

If there is no specific amount set for work completed under an agreement, a quantum meruit claim can occur. It can also arise when there's a contract if any of the following occur:

  • At the request of the owner, work is completed.
  • The contract cannot be enforced or is void.
  • There is an agreement to pay a specific sum.

What is a Reasonable Sum?

When determining what a reasonable sum is, the courts take several factors into consideration:

  • The conditions of the site
  • The overall quality of the work
  • The commercial rate of the work
  • If the contract states specific prices or formulas

The purpose of quantum meruit is to give justice to a wronged party. The decided amount oftentimes depends upon the specific situation. As a result, an individual might receive anywhere from the full value to only the costs to nothing.

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