Area of Law: Wills, Estates and Powers of Attorney
Answer # 1174
Quantum Meruit claimsRegion: Ontario Answer # 1174
What is Quantum Meruit?
Quantum Meruit is a Latin term, which means as “as much as someone deserves” or what someone has earned. Often, when people make claims to get paid what they deserve (principle of Quantum Meruit), the claim is based on unjust enrichment.
What is Unjust Enrichment
In law, unjust enrichment is an equitable concept. It refers to situations where,
- the plaintiff makes a substantial contribution to the property of the defendant,
- the plaintiff does not receive compensation for their contribution, and
- there is no legal reason for the enrichment of the defendant.
Quantum Meruit claims and contracts
The principle of Quantum Meruit is often used in court in cases involving contracts, such as where:
- the contract does not stipulate the amount to be paid for goods or services supplied to the defendant, and the defendant did not pay the plaintiff or paid less than the plaintiff thinks he or she deserves,
- the work done or the goods supplied falls outside of the terms of the original contract,
- the contract is not valid, but the goods or services were supplied to, and used by the defendant, or
- the exact price was not determined.
In these cases, the Court will rely on the principles of unjust enrichment and say that the plaintiff has to be paid a reasonable amount of compensation because it is not reasonable to expect anything for free. The law presumes that people make contracts rather than giving gifts.
Quantum Meruit claims and estates
As with cases involving contracts, in estate litigation, Quantum Meruit claims are often based on unjust enrichment. For example, when making a Will, the Will-maker may promise someone (the plaintiff) that they will make them a beneficiary, promising them things such as money or assets or some other sort of benefit or enrichment, in exchange for providing services to the Will-maker while that person is still alive. After the Will-maker dies, if the Will does not include these promises, or fails to make adequate compensation, the plaintiff may sue the estate, making a claim for Quantum Meruit based on unjust enrichment.
The plaintiff will claim that they want to be paid what they deserve because:
- he or she provided goods or services to the Will-maker,
- the Will-maker received a benefit from the plaintiff (goods or services),
- the plaintiff had no legal obligation to provide these goods or services.
The plaintiff may ask the Court for enforcement of the promise or for compensation for the goods or services provided.
For more information about Wills, visit the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General website. Wills are extremely important documents and relatively inexpensive to have prepared professionally. If you want to make sure your Will is legal and clearly expresses your wishes, or for help in making a Quantum Meruit claim, you should consult a lawyer.
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