When two parties enter into a traditional written contract, they generally attempt to memorialize the transaction’s key terms in order to avoid misunderstandings about the expectations and responsibilities of the parties. In a simple scenario, one party provides goods or services, and the other party pays for the goods and services if they are acceptable. If one party refuses to perform according to the contract, the other party may be entitled to sue for breach of contract. But what happens when there is no written contract? Or, what if the contract is later found to be invalid? This is where quantum meruit comes into play for the party that provided the goods or services.
Quantum Meruit is a Latin term meaning “as much as he has earned.” In the law, the doctrine of quantum meruit is intended to prevent one party from receiving the benefit of an alleged bargain and not paying for it. In other words, the quantum meruit doctrine is a mechanism for a party that provides goods or services without a contract or with an invalid contract to be paid for the goods or services it provided. Quantum meruit is an equitable remedy, meaning that under the doctrine, a court will award the plaintiff a reasonable payment for the goods or services provided.
To be successful in a quantum meruit claim, a plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- The plaintiff provided the defendant with a valuable service or materials;
- The defendant accepted the services or materials from the plaintiff; and
- The defendant had reasonable notice that the plaintiff expected to be paid for the services or materials.
In Texas, quantum meruit is typically invoked when there is no express contract covering the goods or services. However, quantum meruit may also be applicable in cases where a contract does exist if the validity of the contract is questionable.