What is a Claim for Quantum Meruit?
The phrase quantum meruit means “the amount he deserves” or “what the job is worth”. A claim for Quantum Meruit is a claim for payment for works which have been carried out for which the price has not been quantified and is usually a claim for a reasonable amount.
A quantum meruit claim may be based in contract or in restitution, although the term “quantum meruit” is frequently used to mean a claim in restitution only.
A claim for quantum meruit in contract arises in two situations.
- In the first situation the contract is silent on the measure of remuneration for the services provided. In such a situation in construction, contract terms of payment of a reasonable remuneration will be implied by statute.
- In the second situation the contract contains an express agreement to pay reasonable remuneration or similar terminology.
The above “Contractual Quantum Meruit” claims are actually simple claims in contract, so that the first issue is whether or not there is a contract which applies to the situation. If so, the main issue is then the measure of the reimbursement. In the second situation above the main issue will be the interpretation of the particular terms of the contract.
Claims for quantum meruit in restitution seek to impose a right to payment by law arising from the circumstances of unjust enrichment by one party at the expense of another. The claim is occasionally referred to as a claim in quasi-contract. The issue in “Restitutionary Quantum Meruit” is whether or not there is any entitlement at all in law. If so, then the second issue is how the reimbursement is to be measured.
The two types of claims are the extreme ends of a spectrum of circumstances – Serck Controls Ltd v Drake & Scull Engineering Ltd  (TCC) HH Judge Hicks QC:
“A quantum meruit claim may, however, arise in a wide variety of circumstances, across a spectrum which ranges at one end from an express contract to do work at an unquantified price, which expressly or by implication must then be a reasonable one, to work (at the other extreme) done by an uninvited intruder which nevertheless confers on the recipient a benefit which, for some reason, such as estoppel or acquiescence, it is unjust for him to retain without making restitution to the provider…”