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What is unjust enrichment?  

Unjust enrichment refers to a situation where one person has received a benefit or advantage at the expense of another without any legal justification or agreement to compensate the other person. It can occur in various circumstances, such as when someone keeps mistakenly paid money, uses another person’s property without permission, or benefits from another’s efforts without compensation. In Florida, unjust enrichment is not a standalone cause of action. Instead, it is an equitable claim one pleads alongside specific standalone actions. 

The principle behind unjust enrichment is that it is unjust for one person to profit at the expense of another without making proper compensation. By recognizing unjust enrichment as a basis for liability, the courts can ensure that people are not unjustly enriched at the expense of others and can provide a remedy where there would otherwise be none. This recognition helps to promote fairness and to prevent unjust outcomes. 

Unjust enrichment is an equitable remedy created by courts to help imply a contract even if one wasn’t expressly present. One of the most typical cases or fact patterns that have resulted in judgments of unjust enrichment is nonpayment by the defendant after the plaintiff completed work or upkeep on the defendant’s property.  

Need help with an unjust enrichment-related issue? Schedule your consultation today with a top business litigation attorney.  

What legal issues typically arise related to unjust enrichment?  

The following disputes are among the most common to unjust enrichment:  

  • Proof that the defendant benefitted: For the plaintiff to recover on the claim, they must prove that the defendant received some benefit from the plaintiff’s services. The plaintiff will typically present evidence such as financial records, witness testimony, and other relevant documents. 
  • Reasonable expectation of payment: For example, if the plaintiff did not intend to receive compensation for the benefit conferred upon the defendant, the claim might be fair.  

What are relevant laws related to unjust enrichment in Florida? 

There is no specific statute that governs unjust enrichment in Florida. However, one relevant statute is Subsection 95.11(3)(k), which identifies a four-year statute of limitations for unjust enrichment claims.  

What is required to prove a case of unjust enrichment in Florida? 

To prove unjust enrichment in Florida, the plaintiff must allege: 

  • The plaintiff conferred a benefit on the defendant;  
  • The defendant knows the benefit;  
  • The defendant voluntarily accepted and retained that benefit; and 
  • The circumstances are such that it would be inequitable for the defendants to keep it without paying the value thereof 

When a set of facts is appropriate to meet the requirements of unjust enrichment, there are many paths a claimant may take. We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path forward to seek appropriate remedies, such as:  

  • Restitution:  The measure of damages is generally limited to the reasonable value of the benefit conferred on the defendant. 
  • Disgorgement: The defendant must give up any ill-gotten financial gain to the person who suffered harm. The purpose of disgorgement is to restore the parties to the positions they would have been in had the wrongful conduct not occurred. 

To see what actions may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation. 

What are common defenses to unjust enrichment in Florida? 

The primary defenses to unjust enrichment in Florida include:  

  • Express contract: No cause of action in unjust enrichment can exist under Florida law where an express contract governs the parties’ relationship. 
  • Gift: The defendant could assert that the plaintiff gave the item or benefit without expecting to receive something in return. Nothing is unjust about a defendant retaining a gift of money that resulted in the corresponding deprivation to the plaintiff. 
  • Statute of limitations: The defendant may argue that the statute of limitations has expired and that the claim is barred. In Florida, the statute of limitations is four years. 
  • Payment: A claim for unjust enrichment is inappropriate if payment for the received benefit. 
  • Laches: This defense is appropriate when the plaintiff’s undue delay causes the defendant undue prejudice. 

To see what defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation. 

Have more questions about an unjust enrichment-related situation?  

Crucially, this overview of unjust enrichment does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances. 

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively. 

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant. 

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation. 

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