Author Topic: Lawsuit claiming "unjust enrichment"  (Read 2490 times)

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logger1

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Lawsuit claiming "unjust enrichment"
« on: March 30, 2009 04:34:49 PM »
I just read on another board about attorneys now using the claim of "unjust enrichment." Any of you long-timers here heard of this? Isn't a suit against a debtor usually filed for some breach of contract law?

Rottweiler

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Re: Lawsuit claiming "unjust enrichment"
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2009 11:42:42 PM »
I certainly have; that is not unusual. These attorneys are trying to win any way they think they can.

In most cases, once a file gets to a JDB, the best evidence--a contract between the debtor and the OC--is nowhere to be seen.  Although civil procedure usually gives a way to "fix" this by establishing the existence of a contract without the document (the "lost or destroyed instument"), that can be difficult to do and get the evidence accepted by the court.

Instead, a cheaper way is to claim that the debtor, by not paying the debt, is holding onto property that rightfully belongs to the creditor. 

The definition of "unjust enrichment":

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Unjust+Enrichment

Quote
[U ]njust enrichment is not based on an express contract....[L]itigants normally resort to the remedy of unjust enrichment when they have no written or verbal contract to support their claim for relief. In such instances litigants ask a court to find a contractual relationship that is implied in law, a fictitious relationship...1

By raising this CoA, the plaintiff is asking the court to establish a contractural relationship in the absence of the contract the plaintiff does not have and/or cannot obtain.  This frees them from the more bothersome (and potentially expensive) processes of trying to get the contract from the OC and/or establishing a "lost or destroyed" instrument.

Or, in plain English, the Plaintiff is saying "The defendant is holding onto stuff that is rightfully ours and we want the court to tell the defendant to "hand it over"."

Quote
Unjust enrichment has three elements. First, the plaintiff must have provided the defendant with something of value while expecting compensation in return. Second, the defendant must have acknowledged, accepted, and benefited from whatever the plaintiff provided. Third, the plaintiff must show that it would be inequitable or Unconscionable for the defendant to enjoy the benefit of the plaintiff's actions without paying for it...

The doctrine of unjust enrichment also governs many situations where the litigants have no contractual relationship. ...1

In the case of an OC?  It would not be all that hard to establish unjust enrichment since the OC did provide something of value for compensation which was of benefit to the debtor. However, in the case of the OC, it's unlikely they'd have to resort to unjust enrichment because they would have sufficient documentation to establish the contractural relationship to the satisfaction of the court.  This would be true even if the contract itself were no longer available.

In the case of a third-party debt collector?  Well, if unjust enrichment is alleged, it should be clear that they have no evidence worth squat since they have to resort to a quasi-contractural remedy that probably does not apply to them, even allowing for the exception for non-parties to a contract:

1.)  A third-party debt collector does NOT provide something of value to the debtor-defendant while expecting compensation in return (it's their client/the OC they bought the paper from that provided the service);

2.)  The debtor-defendant did not acknowledge to the debt collector that they owed the CA anything (they don't); a CA is an intermediary for the creditor (hired to collect only) and/or is a likely-distant third-party who never risked anything in exchange for future payment (the debt buyer/JDB);

3.)  Since the collector did not render any services for compensation to the debtor-defendant, the debtor is not evading payment of anything (they owe nothing to the collector).

Item #2 is another reason why nobody should acknowledge that they owe a debt to a debt collector:  Even if state law does not count a simple "yes, I owe it" as reaffirmation, it is likely sufficient that such an admission would make the debtor subject to charges of unjust enrichment.

But, is unjust enrichment a "slam dunk"?  Not exactly:

Quote
A court will closely examine the facts of each case before awarding this remedy and will deny claims for unjust enrichment that frustrate public policy or violate the law.1

This is the other motivation: 

The third-party debt collector, by raising unjust enrichment as a CoA, is trying to do both of the above to try to collect on a claim that they did not have a hand in originating (they were not a party to the original agreement) and cannot often even prove happened in the first place due to the lack of documentation.

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1"Unjust Enrichment--legal definition of unjust enrichment" from "thefreedictionary.com.  Accessed from http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Unjust+Enrichment
« Last Edit: March 30, 2009 11:47:25 PM by Rottweiler »
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logger1

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Re: Lawsuit claiming "unjust enrichment"
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2009 12:44:34 AM »
Thank you! Your explanation certainly makes sense. I have now seen several cases where attorneys (hired hacks for some OC's and JDB's) upstate are listing this as the complaint. I have not come accros this in my own issues that I am dealing with, but I am wondering that once you get to the assigned debt collection attorney level and they have furnished you with some verficiation, is it worth the time to send out a new CMRR to the legal firm asking them for some original information that links me/you to the debt?

I'm studying this board and trying to figure out my own next steps. For instance, I recently sent an attorney upstate a DV request. They responded about 45 days later with 6 months of credit card bills and a copy of the credit card terms dated in 2005. Now, I know I did not sign any agreement for any CC in 2005. Is it worth my while to send a letter addressing this to the legal firm? I would not admit nor deny anything other than to point out I DID NOT enter into any agreement that I know of in 2005. Just curious.

Flyingifr

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Re: Lawsuit claiming "unjust enrichment"
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2009 01:45:38 PM »
(said sarcastically)

I would simply reply to that allegation:

"Defendant denies such payments constituted Unjust Enrichment on the theory of law that anyone stupid enough to lend money to Defendant deserves not to be repaid and therefore Defendant;s Enrichment is proper and just."

(now back to reality)

The lawyer is grasping at straws and is hoping the Judge is as much an idiot as the lawyer is. reason: Here's the definition of "unjust enrichment":

Quote
     
unjust enrichment
n. a benefit by chance, mistake or another's misfortune for which the one enriched has not paid or worked and morally and ethically should not keep. If the money or property received rightly should have been delivered or belonged to another, then the party enriched must make restitution to the rightful owner. Usually a court will order such restitution if a lawsuit is brought by the party who should have the money or property.

source: Law.com Legal Dictionary

The operative words here are "chance, mistake or another's misfortune". Note that the terms "regular course of the Plaintiff's business" does not appear.

An example of "Unjust Enrichment" would be people coming to the scene of an accident where an Armored car was overturned and the money scattered around the street. They scoop the money up and keep it. THAT is "Unjust Enrichment".
BTW-the Flyingifr Method does work. (quoted from Hannah on Infinite Credit, September 19, 2006)

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