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!
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