When is enrichment unjust?

enrichment_logoWhile affirming a relatively straightforward judgment in a home loan dispute, the Fifth Court observed: “The unjust enrichment doctrine applies principles of restitution to disputes where there is no actual contract and is based on the equitable principle that one who receives benefits which would be unjust for him to retain ought to make restitution.” Ihde v. First Horizon Home Loans, No. 05-15-01084-CV (Nov. 28, 2016) (mem. op.) (emphasis added) A counterpoint in this practical but rarely-visited area of remedies law appears in City of Harker Heights v. Sun Meadows Land Ltd., 830 S.W.2d 313, 317 (Tex. App.–Austin 1992, no writ), which observes: “An action for money had and received may be founded upon an express agreement or one implied in fact, but it is not dependent upon either.” (emphasis added).

Equitable Remedy Primer

A memorandum opinion provides a short lesson in the nature of equitable remedies. Monterey Mushrooms sued Majestic Realty Co. and McLane Foodservice after one of Monterey’s employees slipped and fell on ice located on their property, causing Monterey to pay the worker through its ERISA injury benefits plan. Monterey sued the defendants for equitable subrogation, unjust enrichment, and money had and received. The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed no-evidence summary judgment for the defendants. Although Monterey had evidence supporting an equitable right of subrogation, that subrogation claim only put it in the shoes of its injured worker, and there was no evidence that he would have a claim against the defendants. The Court distinguished between haveing a right of subrogation and having the ability to recover under that right. Monterey’s unjust enrichment claim failed because there was no evidence that the defendants received any benefit from Monterey’s payment of its injured worker’s benefits. Nor was there a claim for money had and received because there was no evidence teh defendants received any money or benefits belonging to Monterey.

Monterey Mushrooms, Inc. v. Majestic Realty Co., No. 05-13-01015-CV