Legal Memorandum: Unjust Enrichment Claims in VI

Issue: Under the law of the Virgin Islands, what must a plaintiff establish to prevail on a claim of unjust enrichment?

Area of Law: Business Organizations & Contracts, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Unjust enrichment; Quasi-contract; Quantum meruit
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 358 Md. 83; 14 F.3d 1507
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2015

“A cause of action for quantum meruit, also known as unjust enrichment, will ordinarily lie in a case where the defendant receives something of value to which he is not entitled and which he should restore to the plaintiff.”  Cacciamani & Rover Corp. v. Banco Popular de Puerto Rico, 2014 V.I. Supreme LEXIS 43, 6 (VI 2014) (quoting Walters v. Walters, 60 V.I. 768, 776 (2014)) (internal quotations omitted).  Unjust enrichment comes from an equitable quasi-contract cause of action that imposes liability where no enforceable contract existed, but fairness dictates the plaintiff should receive compensation for services provided.  Id. (quoting Cnty. Comm’rs of Caroline City v. J. Roland Dashiell & Sons, Inc., 358 Md. 83, 747 A.2d 600, 607 (2000)).  Unjust enrichment, being equitable, is available only when legal remedies are not, also known as the “barred by contract rule.”  Id. (citing Mitsubishi Int’l Corp. v. Cardinal Textile Sales, 14 F.3d 1507, 1518 (11th Cir. 1994)).  The “barred by contract rule” arises from the principle that parties in contractual privity are not entitled to judicially-imposed quasi-contract remedies because their agreement, express and implied, defines their rights, duties, and expectations.  Id. at *6-7 (quoting Frank V. Pollara Grp. v. Ocean View Inv. Holding, LLC, Civ., No. 9-60, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4854, 6 (D.V.I. Jan. 10, 2013) (Ambrose, J.)).


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