What is a Contract Implied in Law?

"To describe the cause of action encompassed by a contract implied in law, Florida courts have synonymously used a number of different terms — quasi contract, unjust enrichment, restitution, constructive contract, and quantum meruit." Commerce Partnership 8098 Limited Partnership v. Equity Contracting Co., 695 So.2d 383, 386 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997) (internal quotations and footnotes omitted). However, a contract implied in law "is not based upon the finding, by a process of implication from the facts, of an agreement between the parties. A contract implied in law is a legal fiction, an obligation created by the law without regard to the parties' expression of assent by their words or conduct. The fiction was adopted to provide a remedy where one party was unjustly enriched, where that party received a benefit under circumstances that made it unjust to retain it without giving compensation." Id.   "Because the basis for recovery does not turn on the finding of an enforceable agreement, there may be recovery under a contract implied in law even where the parties had no dealings at all with each other." Id.

A claim to establish a contract implied in law is often raised when a plaintiff contends that a defendant owes money for services rendered. To establish this claim, the plaintiff must prove all of the following:

  1. the plaintiff gave a benefit to the defendant;
  2. the defendant knew of the benefit;
  3. the defendant accepted or retained the benefit; and
  4. the circumstances are such that the defendant should, in all fairness, be required to pay for the fair value of the benefit.

A claim to establish a contract implied in law may be a claim in equity for the court to decide or a claim at law for a jury to decide. See Della Ratta v. Della Ratta, 927 So.2d 1055, 1060 n.2 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006).

Please contact Joel Ewusiak for legal assistance with your particular contract dispute.