Quantum Meruit: Definition & Theory

Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

After you complete this lesson, you will understand what constitutes quantum meruit. You will also review the quantum meruit theory to be able to get a full picture of the theory.


Quantum meruit is a Latin phrase that relates to the field of contract law. Before we dissect its meaning, however, let's look at quantum meruit in action.

Let's say that Annie and Bob, daughter and father, had an agreement whereby Bob asked Annie to provide medical care for him while he was sick. In exchange, Bob agreed not to write a will and to instead make sure that Annie would receive a fair portion of Bob's estate at his death. However, Bob soon died, leaving his second wife all of the estate, and leaving Annie nothing. Bob received the value of Annie's services, but Annie did not receive anything in return; thus, Bob was unjustly enriched.

In this case, Annie seeks to recover a portion of Bob's estate by claiming quantum meruit theory. This theory is based upon the idea that recovery should be granted to one party to obtain the value of their services when another party was unfairly and unjustly enriched.

Theory of Quantum Meruit

As previously stated, quantum meruit involves cases where someone gets a benefit while the other party gets nothing. In Latin, the phrase translates to what one has earned. In contracts, this refers to the benefit or enrichment one party receives as a result of the other party's actions.

Under the law, the theory means that another party has received an unfair benefit and thus must provide restitution to the party who provided that benefit. Thus, in the aforementioned example, Bob received the benefits of Annie's care. Therefore, she is entitled to receive a portion of the estate for her services.

Recovering for Quantum Meruit

When you file a case for quantum meruit, it is necessary to check the particular requirements of the state where you want to file the case. This is because the state law will provide what elements of quantum meruit are needed to be successful in your case.

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