64 Geo. L. J. 1 (1975-1976)
Concept of Benefit in the Law of Quasi-Contract, The

handle is hein.journals/glj64 and id is 15 raw text is: Georgetown
Volumne64  Numaber I  October 1975
Law Joal
THE CONCEPT OF BENEFIT IN THE LAW
OF QUASI-CONTRACT
TIMOTHY J. SULLIVAN*
INTRODUCTION
The appeal of a legal rule requiring the disgorgement of gains
unjustly acquired or retained is so compelling that scholars from
classical times to our own era may be cited in its support.1 The
enthusiasm for separating a wrongdoer from his illicit gains, however,
has obscured careful analysis of what constitutes an unjust benefit
sufficient to entitle a plaintiff to recover in quasi-contract on
restitutionary principles.2 Not only do we lack a comprehensive
concept of benefit, but the need to develop uniform yardsticks for
measuring the quantum of gains unjustly obtained also has been
neglected.
The central function of quasi-contract in providing a remedy in
extremis may explain why no wholly consistent or comprehensive
definition of benefit is possible or even desirable.3 Quasi-contract fills
many gaps in areas to which other more conventional legal actions do
not comfortably extend4 and often provides a remedy of last resort. To
serve these objectives the application of quasi-contract necessarily must
be improvisational. In failing to recognize that a doctrine serving such
divergent and exigent purposes is not likely to emerge as a model of
rationality, courts and scholars often have confused the concept of
*Associate Professor of Law, Marshall-Wythe School of Law, College of Williani and
Mary; A.B., William & Mary, 1966; J.D., Harvard University, 1969. The author wishes to
acknowledge the generous assistance of his colleague, Professor Elmer J. Schaefer, and his
research assistant, Mr. Marc Kane, J.D., 1975, William and Mary.
1. See J. DAWSON, UNJUST ENRICHMENT 3 (1951) (authorities cited as various as Porn-
ponius, a second century Roman lawyer, and the Restatement ofRestitution).
2. See Comment, Quasi-Contracts-Concept of Benefit, 46 MICH. L. REV. 543, 544
(1948). Relatively few articles or student comments have treated the concept of benefit as
a distinct topic of general application. See generally Jeanblanc, Restitution under the
Statute of Frauds: What Constitutes a Legal Benefit, 26 IND. L.J. 1 (1950); Note, The
Necessity of Conferring a Benefit For Recovery in Quasi-Contract, 19 HASTINGS L.J. 1259
(1968).
3. See J. DAWSON, supra note 1, at 7.
4. See Comment, supra note 2, at 551,553-54.

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