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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts by Schlam Stone & Dolan LLP
Posted: June 27, 2018

Unjust Enrichment Claim Fails For Lack of Relationship Between Plaintiff and Defendant

On June 20, 2018, the Second Department issued a decision in Crescimanni v. Trovato, 2018 NY Slip Op. 04529, holding that an unjust enrichment claim failed because there was no relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, explaining:

To recover for unjust enrichment, a plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant was enriched, (2) at the plaintiff’s expense, and (3) that it is against equity and good conscience to permit the defendant to retain what is sought to be recovered. Although privity is not required for an unjust enrichment claim, a claim will not be supported if the connection between the parties is too attenuated. The relationship must be one that could have caused reliance or inducement. Here, the defendant established her prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by demonstrating that the plaintiff and Trovato did not have a relationship that could have caused reliance or inducement on the plaintiff’s part. In opposition, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact.

(Internal citations omitted).

Unjust enrichment is a common claim in commercial litigation. It is used when there was not a contract between the litigants, but the defendant received an unfair benefit at the plaintiff’s expense. As this decision shows, while there cannot be a contract between the parties, there still must have been some sort of relationship between the parties. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com if you or a client have questions regarding whether you have, or are the subject of, a claim for unjust enrichment.

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