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RESTITUTIONARY CLAIMS FOR SERVICES: IDENTIFYING AND QUANTIFYING THE BENEFIT

Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

RESTITUTIONARY CLAIMS FOR SERVICES: IDENTIFYING AND QUANTIFYING THE BENEFIT

Charles Mitchell *

Claims in unjust enrichment to recover the value of services raise some special issues that do not arise in connection with claims to recover other types of benefit. The article examines these after setting out the basic principles governing the identification and quantification of benefits in all cases, including services claims.

A. INTRODUCTION

The law of unjust enrichment is concerned with reversing transfers of value between claimants and defendants.1 In Mummery LJ’s words, a claim in unjust enrichment is “not a claim for compensation for loss, but for recovery of a benefit unjustly gained … at the expense of the claimant”.2 The question whether a defendant has been enriched is therefore “centre stage”,3 and proving the defendant’s enrichment “is not merely material to success, but the whole essence of the action”.4 Claims in unjust enrichment to recover the value of services raise some special issues that do not arise in connection with claims to recover other types of benefit. These will be discussed after an account has been given of the main principles governing the identification and quantification of benefits in all cases, including services claims.

B. GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF ENRICHMENT

1. Subjectivity of value

People have different means and spending priorities, and they value benefits differently according to their personal tastes. Consequently, “a benefit is not always worth its market
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