unjust enrichment

Economic Damages Must be Based on Competent Substantial Evidence

Posted by David Adelstein on September 22, 2018
Trial Perspectives / Comments Off on Economic Damages Must be Based on Competent Substantial Evidence

Economic damages must be supported by substantial competent evidence.  Stated differently, economic damages cannot be speculative and the amount of the damages must be quantifiable.  Putting on speculative, unquantifiable damages at trial can be fatal to a claim because damages should be the most important part of a claim.  If damages cannot be proven, there is no claim, so making sure damages can be supported with competent substantial evidence is beyond important.

The recent decision of Alvarez v. All Star Boxing, Inc., 43 Fla.L.Weekly D2102a (Fla. 3d DCA 2018) establishes what can happen if a party puts on speculative damages.  This case involved the famous professional boxer Canelo Alvarez.  He was sued by a former promoter and a jury found he was liable in unjust enrichment to the promoter to the tune of $8.5 Million.  Unjust enrichment damages typically focus on the reasonable value of the labor or services performed or the reasonable value of such labor or services to the party that was unjustly enriched.   Alvarez, supra.  In this case, however, the promoter put on a forensic accountant to support damages associated with a percentage of Canelo Alvarez’s earnings during a certain period—a type of lost profits methodology.  The appellate court avoided addressing the issue of whether lost profits can form unjust enrichment damages, and instead, focused on the fact that the methodology utilized by the promoter to calculate lost profits was wholly speculative. The methodology and damages did not rest on a reasonable basis but were grounded in a lot of guesswork.  As a result, the $8.5 Million jury verdict could not stand.  The appellate court remanded back to the trial court to reconsider a motion of remittitur–a motion to reduce the damages–to reduce the damages based on evidence at trial that supported the reasonable value of the promoter’s expenses and services and, if not, to enter judgment in favor of the defense. 

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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You Can’t Sue Someone for Unjust Enrichment when there is a Contract

Posted by David Adelstein on September 08, 2018
Trial Perspectives / Comments Off on You Can’t Sue Someone for Unjust Enrichment when there is a Contract

You cannot sue someone for unjust enrichment (or quantum meruit) if there is a contract between the parties.  You can sue them for breach of contract; but you cannot try to circumvent the parameters of the contract by suing them for unjust enrichment (an equitable quasi-contract theory of liability).  

For example, in Sterling Breeze Owners’ Association, Inc. v. New Sterling Resorts, LLC, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D2040c (Fla. 1st DCA 2018), a condominium association sued the developer for, among other claims, unjust enrichment.  The claim stemmed from the fact that the developer (in developing the condominium) reserved in the condominium documents ground floor units for its own commercial use.  The developer was required to maintain the interior of the units and pay for expenses including utilities relating to the units. The association claimed the developer did not pay and the association sued the developer under a theory of unjust enrichment for the collection of those expenses. However, the developer was already responsible for paying the expenses through the condominium documents.  Thus, the appellate court held the association had NO unjust enrichment claim: “[T]he agreement [in the condominium documents] specifically addresses the expenses for unpaid services and utilities sought in the Association’s lawsuit. Because a contract [i.e., the condominium documents] covers this matter, we reverse and remand the judgment on Count III and direct that judgment be entered for New Sterling Resorts [the developer] on this quasi-contractual claim.” Sterling Breeze Owners’ Association, Inc., supra.  The association could have sued on the contract, but it could not circumvent the contract by suing on an unjust enrichment theory!

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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