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This article evaluates the impact of Birksian themes through a comparative lens. It is shown how, unlike the English courts, the Singaporean courts have accepted “lack of consent” as an unjust factor, held that actions for restitution of mistaken payments, being based on unjust enrichment, fall outside the scope of the Limitation Act, and accepted Birks’ lack-of-intention analysis of the resulting trust. On these points, perhaps surprisingly, one could even say that Birks’ thinking has found greater traction in Singaporean private law than in its English counterpart. To explain this observation, five possible reasons are ventured.
These are exciting times for scholars of unjust enrichment and restitution.1 Powerful objections and new accounts abound.2 The subject’s vibrancy belies its youth: the modern starting point for the subject, Peter Birks’s seminal work An Introduction to the Law of Restitution,3 was published only thirty-odd years ago.
This article, an early version of which was presented at a conference celebrating Introduction’s publication,4 aims to evaluate its impact through a comparative lens. It proceeds first by setting out the necessary background, comparing the relative impact of Birks’ writings in England and Singapore. In light of this, three points of divergence between Singaporean and English law are then explored. It is shown how, unlike the English courts, the Singaporean courts have (a) accepted “lack of consent” as an unjust factor, (b) held that actions for restitution of mistaken payments, being based on unjust