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Unjust enrichment: 18 years ago my husband bought a mobile…

Unjust enrichment:18 years ago my...
Unjust enrichment:18 years ago my husband bought a mobile home and asked parents to put it on their land. They said yes and helped him with footings, plumbing, getting land ready. They have 40 acres and 4 kids and it was understood by family that each child would get 10 acres a piece with my husband getting his 10 where his house is.My husband put in a septic system $5000 and a concrete storm shelter in the ground for $5000. Both are not removable.Father passed away. Last year his mother wanted to evict us. We took her to court for at first adverse possession and unjust enrichment. We dropped adverse after being encourage by our attorney to do so. But continued with unjust enrichment.Went to court Friday. She denies ever saying land would go to her son. But what hurts us most is she states she will not use septic system or tornado shelter and she doesnt get anything out of having them on land. (She has used tornado shelter several times and she does not own a septic, her waste just goes out on the ground but she says she's getting one)Our Attorney seems to think we will lose but I guess I don't understand that?A) Harvey vs Dow 2011 clearly states that the mere fact that the parents allowed him to put home out there and supported him shows enough intent to a promise (because what idiot is going to invest over $10,000 in a piece of land he doesn't think he is eventually going to own?)B) what does it matter if she's going to USE the septic tank or tornado shelter or not? It still increased her property value.2 acres with nothing on it vs 2 acres with a septic and shelter are worth 2 totally different numbers.I need case law on the 2nd question. It's already gone to "breif". Judge has asked for case law but it just doesn't seem like my attorney wants to work.
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Answered in 7 minutes by:
4/10/2017
legalgems
legalgems, Arbitrator
Category: Real Estate Law
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Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

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I am sorry to hear this; that would be very upsetting after investing so much time and money.

The Beeler case states the following:

The Beelers assert in their second point that the circuit court erred by not awarding them sufficient damages on their unjust enrichment claim. To establish a claim for unjust enrichment, the plaintiff must show: "`(1) that the defendant was enriched by the receipt of a benefit; (2) that the enrichment was at the expense of the plaintiff; [and] (3) that it would be unjust to allow the defendant to retain the benefit.'" Miller v. Horn, 254 S.W.3d 920, 924 (Mo.App.2008) (citation omitted). In its judgment, the circuit court determined that Martin and Billy Beeler were "unjustly enriched to the extent that they received assets of the dissolved corporation in excess of the liabilities of the corporation which they have paid and have not used those assets to repay the [Beelers]." Thus, the court found that Martin had been unjustly enriched in the amount of $667 and that Billy Beeler had been unjustly enriched in the amount of $10,935. The court ordered Martin and Billy Beeler to pay those amounts to the Beelers.

So that would help establish that there only need to be a benefit conferred upon the party, regardless of whether or not they personally considered it a benefit.

This is further discussed in the Rolla Lumber case -

"legal obligations arising, without reference to the assent of the obligor, from the receipt of a benefit the retention of which is unjust, and requiring the obligor to make restitution." Woodward, The Law of Quasi Contracts § 3, p. 4. See 17 C.J.S. Contracts § 6, p. 566

The Miller case seems to tie it to the reasonableness standard- please see:

Unjust enrichment can occur only when a person retains a benefit without paying its reasonable value. Id. To recover under quantum meruit, it is the plaintiff's burden to show that its services benefited the defendant. See Hosp. Dev. Corp. v. Park Lane Land Co., 813 S.W.2d 904, 910 (Mo. App.1991). The plaintiff must also show the amount of the benefit. Kinetic Energy Dev. Corp. v. Trigen Energy Corp., 22 S.W.3d 691, 697 (Mo.App.1991). This may be accomplished by showing proof of the reasonable value of the services performed. Id. Reasonable value is the price customarily paid for such services at the time and locality in question. Id. Proof of reasonable value is not accomplished simply by reciting the bill or referring to the contract, or stating the "standard price" that plaintiff usually would charge for such service. Id. at 698. There must be evidence establishing the objective reasonableness of plaintiff's charges. Id. Here, there was none. There also was no other evidence objectively establishing the benefit conferred in terms of market value added to the property by the construction.

I certainly hope this helps!

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Customer reply replied 1 year ago
This is fantastic! My follow up is-She is saying she wants us to just remove these items (which obviously cannot be removed) and if we cannot remove them, to destroy them.So the above cases will address this?P.S. how would I approach my attorney with this (if you cannot advise me on that I completely understand)

Thank you for understanding-we can't give legal advice- we can only provide information.

Those blue links above are to the actual cases, so one can print them out and present them to their attorney and ask how it helps their case, based on the specifics of their case.

Also unjust enrichment is an equitable doctrine-the idea is to "do right" by both parties; destroying the improvements would not accomplish that, nor would its removal (especially since that would be invasive and damaging to the property-the septic issue). The court prefers quasi contractual claims over destruction of property, also, from a public policy perspective.

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Customer reply replied 1 year ago
Possibly last question:)So even though she wants us to destroy/get rid of septic and shelter using above cases she was still unjustly enriched and we must be returned to our "original state" equitably...We called assessors office and they stated she IS benefiting from land improvements because it dramatically improves her resale value to have a septic and shelter. Land without those items goes for $1500 an acre. With a septic and shelter it goes for $16,000-25,000.We would need to get an appraisal done to prove that. The judge is asking for case law (thank you for help on that!!!) and a brief. So we are past evidentiary submissions.However in our brief can we insert?And would it be worth it to have land appraised?

It would help if one actually had an appraisal of the property now, along with an affidavit from the appraiser as to what the property would be worth without the improvements.That would be helpful for establishing the value of the improvement.

New information isn't supposed to be introduced after the evidentiary submissions are complete; but the judge may order a mini trial to determine the value of the improvements, should they determine that there was in fact unjust enrichment (so once it is determined the party received a benefit, the judge would then need to determine the value of the improvements; and the judge may request both parties to submit evidence supporting their stance).

you are welcome!

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