Florida Breach of Contract or Unjust Enrichment

In Florida, a Plaintiff may not recover on both a breach of contract claim and an unjust enrichment claim.  Nonetheless, both claims may be pled in the alternative, though only one can ultimately survive.  In Florida every contract contains an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.  This implied covenant protects the parties’s reasonable expectations under the contract.  The same is true under the Uniform Commercial Code.  However, for their to be an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing there must be an express contract, whether verbal or in writing.  In Florida a contract requires an offer, an acceptance, and consideration (something given and received of value).  A breach of contact requires 1)  a valid contract, 2)  a breach of the terms of the contract, and 3) damages caused by the breach of contract.

Unjust enrichment, on the other hand, does not arise when there is an express contract.  Unjust enrichment arises in situations where there is a contract implied by law where although there is no express contract, there is a benefit conferred on one party and it would be unfair for that party to retain the benefit without compensating the party conferring the benefit.  This could occur in a situation such as when an unconscious patient is brought to the emergency room for treatment the patient did not request but was provided anyway for the health of the patient.  In this situation, the law implies “an obligation imposed by law to do justice even though it is clear that no promise was ever made or intended.”  John D. Calamari & Joseph M. Perillo, The Law of Contracts 1-12 (2d ed. 1977) and Tipper v. Great Lakes Chem. Co., 281 So. 2d 10, 13 (Fla. 1973).  Unjust enrichment can also be available when, although there is an express contract, that contract is ruled unenforceable due to circumstances such as incapacity of an individual to enter into a contract (underage, not of sane mind), impossibility of performance, or the statute of frauds (which requires certain types of contracts to be in writing to be enforceable).

Whether to include both a claim for breach of contract and unjust enrichment or merely a claim for one or the other is a decision that the lawyer will need to make based on the circumstances of the particular case and what potential remedies are available under each cause of action.

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