How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask socrateaser Your Own Question
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 39136
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
Type Your Legal Question Here...
socrateaser is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

How do you file an unjust enrichment claim? CAlifornia, No I

Customer Question

how do you file an unjust enrichment claim?
JA: What state are you in? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: CAlifornia
JA: Has anything been filed or reported?
Customer: No I am a small sub contracting electrician and the GC is withholding payment, I am unable to pay my employees
JA: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: Can my employees file suit against the property owner?
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 month ago.

NOTICE: If you are presented with an offer for a phone consultation, which may appear to have been sent by me, please know that this is an automated website offer, and that I do not participate in this Justanswer program. If you would like to correspond with me directly, whether by phone, email or otherwise, then do not accept the phone call offer, because your request will be accepted by a random contributor, who may or may not be licensed to practice law in California – and, I will be unable to provide further assistance. Instead, simply type to me that you would like my direct contact info, and I will send you a specific offer for that purpose.


I am a member of the State Bar of California, the Bar of the U.S. District and Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside Counties), the Bar of the U.S. Tax Court, the California and National Associations of Realtors, and I have comprehensive information about all areas of California law.

Question: How much money are we talking about?

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 month ago.

Hello again,

The reason why I asked about the money is that I was trying to determine if small claims court was a possibility for your circumstances -- because in small claims court, you don't need to actually plead a specific cause of action (e.g., unjust enrichment).

Legally, the tort of "unjust enrichment" doesn't exist under California law. "Unjust enrichment is not a cause of action, ... or even a remedy, but rather `"`a general principle, underlying various legal doctrines and remedies'" .... [Citation.] It is synonymous with restitution. [Citation.]' [Citation.]" (McBride v. Boughton (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 379, 387 [20 Cal.Rptr.3d 115].)

So, when you ask the question about how to file for unjust enrichment in California, I suspect that you may have previously received legal advice which is simply incorrect. The correct cause of action is either "quantum meruit" (i.e., the value of services rendered), or "quasi contract" (i.e., a contract which for some reason is unenforceable, or circumstances under which no contract was ever contemplated, but where a person has received an unjust benefit at another's expense, and is thus obligated to to restore that benefit to the party from which it was received).

If this is a situation where a GC hired you to perform services, you performed those services, and you haven't been paid, and there is some agreed upon evidence of the value of those services (e.g, a purchase order -- or an invoice from you to the GC which has not been rejected), then that would be a straight breach of contract claim. If there is no evidence to value your services, but you performed services in expectation of compensation, then your claim is for quantum meruit.

I'm really not trying to be difficult here, but I routinely work with contractors -- and there are always the sort of problems you describe -- because, and especially with commercial projects -- the parties simply don't spend any time to put the deal into writing -- which creates the opportunity for a dispute.

That said, I can't tell you how to plead a case to recover the value of your services in this forum -- that would be malpractice -- because it's way too complicated to just tell you to file some particular pleading (outside of small claims court). I'd need to review all of the facts and evidence. Which, of course, means paying for legal services -- something which I'm fairly sure is the reason why you came to Justanswer -- i.e., to avoid paying a lawyer to try to resolve this matter.

Anyway, based upon what you've disclosed here, I doubt that you will be able to collect from the GC outside of small claims court (which has a limit of $10,000 damages, unless you're a corporation or LLC, in which case it's only $5,000.

If small claims works for you -- great!

If you need more personal attention than can be provided in this public forum, I can arrange to send you an offer of direct correspondence, and we can take the discussion offline into a confidential setting. Please let me know if you're interested.

If not, then I hope I've answered your question. Please let me know if you require further clarification. And, please provide a positive feedback rating for my answer (click 3, 4 or 5 stars) -- otherwise, Justanswer retains your entire payment, and I receive nothing for my efforts in your behalf. Note: If you cannot find the rating button on your webpage, please just type in your rating in a response to this note, and customer service will apply the rating for you.

Thanks again for using Justanswer!