It is always a good idea to use a contract whenever goods or services are being provided for a fee. However, if no contract was made, or if it was an oral or verbal contract, and payment was not provided for the services rendered, there are still legal remedies in Massachusetts. One of them is an equitable claim for quantum meruit, a Latin phrase that means “as much as deserved.”
Quantum Meruit is an Alternative to a Breach of Contract Claim
Most transactions for goods or, more importantly, for services involve a contract. That contract sets out who will do what, for how much, and stipulates what will happen in certain circumstances. Breaking the agreement can lead to a breach of contract claim.
Just because there is not a contract, though, does not mean that there was not an agreement. The terms and obligations of that agreement can often be pieced together from the conduct of the parties. The result of that process is called a quasi-contract, or a legally-enforceable agreement created by the court. The parties to this quasi-contract have legal obligations to give each other what they deserve, supporting claims of quantum meruit for nonpayment of goods or services that were provided.
To prove a claim for quantum meruit, you have to show three things:
- You conferred a measurable benefit on the defendants in the claim,
- You reasonably expected compensation for conferring it, and
- The defendants accepted that benefit in the knowledge that you reasonably expected to be paid for it.
Quantum Meruit Versus Unjust Enrichment
While claims of quantum meruit are similar to those for unjust enrichment, there is a subtle distinction: Quantum meruit claims focus on the value of the payment that has not been made, while unjust enrichment focuses on the value of the services that were rendered.
For example, if you provide work on someone's car that would have cost $500, but that only increases the value of the car by $200, then a quantum meruit claim would demand $300 more than one for unjust enrichment.
These Claims Can Be Used in Situations Involving Partial Contracts
Quantum meruit claims are not confined to situations where there is no contract or written agreement, at all. They can also be filed when there is a contract, but it does not cover a particular circumstance.
A recent Massachusetts case, Sugarman & Sugarman v. Shapiro, is an example. A contract stipulated how an attorney would be paid by a law firm if the lawyer was terminated before a specific date, but not what the compensation would be after that date. The attorney was terminated after that date, and the court applied the concept of quantum meruit to the case in spite of the written, but incomplete, contract.
Parallel Claims are Common
Because quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract allegations are all so similar, they are frequently filed alongside one another. This is to ensure that all of the wronged party's options are being pursued, should one of the claims gets thrown out.
Massachusetts Business and Contract Lawyers at the Katz Law Group
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have provided a valuable service but are not getting paid for it, call the Massachusetts business and contract lawyers at the Katz Law Group at (508) 480-8202 or contact them online.