Quantum Meruit: Legal Claims for Unpaid Services

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Quantum meruit (Latin for “as much as he has deserved”) is a legal claim for the reasonable value of services rendered.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court describes quantum meruit as follows:

It is an obligation that arises under quasi contract theory in which an obligation is created by law for reasons of justice…The underlying basis for awarding quantum meruit damages in a quasi-contract case is unjust enrichment of one party and unjust detriment to the other party. The injustice of the enrichment or detriment equates with the defeat of a person’s reasonable expectations. While a party does not recover on the contract itself under quantum meruit, a court may look to the terms of the underlying contract to help determine appropriate recovery under quantum meruit.” Liss v. Studeny, 450 Mass. 473, 479-480 (2008).

To succeed with such a claim, the plaintiff must establish:

(1) that he or she conferred a measurable benefit upon the defendants;

(2) that the claimant reasonably expected compensation from the defendants; and

(3) that the defendants accepted the benefit with the knowledge, actual or chargeable, of the claimant’s reasonable expectation.

Plaintiff often couple a claim for quantum meruit with similar claims such as promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and the Massachusetts’ consumer protection law 93A.

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