Quasi Contract Elements: Everything You Need to Know
Quasi contract elements are interesting because, while not a true contract, assent from all parties is necessary. 3 min read
Quasi contract elements are interesting because, while not a true contract, assent from all parties is necessary. This is why a quasi contract may also be known as a contract implied or a constructive contract. A court may presume a quasi contract when a true contract is missing.
Since quasi contracts are not true contracts, assent from all parties is not necessary. In fact, it's possible that a court will impose a certain obligation without considering the intent of either party. This turns a quasi-contract into a contract created under a court order, as opposed to an agreement drawn up by the parties involved. Typically, one party is looking for restitution, but that will always be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Quas contracts become imposed by a court when unjust enrichment needs to be avoided. Therefore, understanding the term unjust enrichment will be important to various quasi-contract elements. Unjust enrichment means someone unfairly received a certain benefit from someone else's goods or services.
This unjust receipt may be a result of chance or someone else's misfortune. To be enriched unjustly, someone has received a benefit, but not paid for or worked for it. Therefore, it is considered ethically and morally appropriate to return it.
Proving unjust enrichment will require five elements:
- Enrichment must be received by the defendant.
- A disadvantage must have been suffered by the claimant.
- Said enrichment must be proven to be unjust.
- An explanation must be lacking for the enrichment and disadvantage.
- A remedy, provided by law to the claimant, must be lacking.
The remedy in these instances is restitution. That is what the court will be seeking to recover, in the form of compensation for what was justly owed to the claimant. That compensation may include cash that aligns with the value of the goods or services, or the defendant may be required to return the item in question. It must be proven that some good or service was received unjustly, meaning unlawfully, fraudulently, or in a morally wrong manner.
Quasi Contracts and the Courts
A court will create a quasi contract when an official agreement is lacking between certain parties. Usually, disputes will arise over payments for services rendered or goods. The court will be seeking to prevent unfair enrichment to any party involved in the dispute.
This makes a quasi contract a substitute for a contract, designed to promote fair treatment, or equity, between the parties involved. It's safe to say that quasi contracts are formed where legal agreements were not established but should have been.
Typically, an actual contract is necessary to hold a defendant liable for goods or services. When this is not the case, many jurisdictions in the United States will find that restitution may be achieved through a quasi contract.
Quasi Contract Elements
There are three inherent principles to a quasi contract.
- The plaintiff must show evidence of the goods or services they should have been compensated for.
- The defendant must have accepted those goods or services and receive some type of benefit from them.
- Finally, the defendant must have accepted said goods or services under unfair circumstances where the plaintiff didn't receive any compensation.
A standard, legal contract would typically set out stipulations agreed upon by both parties before the services were rendered, or the goods received. A quasi contract, however, comes into play when one party never had any intention of entering into a legal contract. This is when the court steps in to create a contract and achieve a level of fairness between the parties involved.
Quasi Contract Recovery
Three general situations outline recovery in a quasi contract.
- The absence of a contract that would allow the plaintiff to be justly compensated.
- The existence of an unenforceable contract.
- The plaintiff's receipt of some type of benefit while breaching an existing contract.
When dealing with recovery, you may hear the term quantum merit. This measures the severity of the plaintiff's suffering. If someone has willfully breached a contract, quasi contract recovery is less likely. Yet, you'll find this sort of restitution is often less severe in instances when an employee willfully breaches a contract.
If you need help with quasi contract elements, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.