Restitution for unjust enrichment—elements of the claim
Restitution for unjust enrichment—elements of the claim

The following Dispute Resolution guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Restitution for unjust enrichment—elements of the claim
  • What is unjust enrichment and when is it used?
  • Required elements for an unjust enrichment claim
  • Defendant has been enriched (first requirement)
  • Bank receiving monies by mistake
  • Enrichment is at claimant's expense (second requirement)
  • Retention of enrichment is unjust (third requirement)
  • Defences to a claim of unjust enrichment
  • Relationship with contract law
  • 'Woolwich type' restitution claims—public authorities
  • more

What is unjust enrichment and when is it used?

A claim based on unjust enrichment is one which seeks to restore to an innocent party the gains that someone else has obtained from them. It is part of the equitable remedy of restitution, on which see: Restitution and unjust enrichment—overview.

A claim for unjust enrichment may be an appropriate basis of claim in a variety of scenarios, such as where money or property has been paid or transferred away by mistake.

While a claim for restitution for unjust enrichment is not necessarily dependent on some wrongful act by the defendant, many restitutionary claims are brought in consequence of some form of alleged wrongdoing by the defendant. See Practice Note: Restitution for wrongful acts.

A claim for unjust enrichment is a claim which may sometimes be pursued alongside (in the alternative to and distinguished from) a claim in contract, circumstances permitting.

Required elements for an unjust enrichment claim

Unjust enrichment applies in situations where one party is enriched at the expense of another.

The elements required to bring a claim for unjust enrichment are that:

  1. the defendant has been enriched (first requirement)

  2. the enrichment was at the claimant’s expense (second requirement)

  3. the retention of the enrichment is unjust (third requirement)

The above criteria derive from dicta of Lord Steyn in Banque Financière v Parc