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Unjust Enrichment Claims By Family Caregivers

Unjust Enrichment Claims by Family Caregivers

Family caregivers often spend countless hours and tremendous effort attending to the various needs of elderly people and, in some cases, receive no pay or compensation. This can leave caregivers sacrificing paid working hours and even career advancement opportunities to care for their family member. Unjust enrichment claims can operate to give legal remedy to those facing this scenario. Founded in moral principles rather than legal precedent, unjust enrichment is based off of the doctrine of restitution – profits are not to be made at the expense of another. The goal of unjust enrichment claims is to compensate those who’s services have been taken advantage of, expending significant effort without mutual benefit to the parties involved.

Legal Process for Unjust Enrichment Claims

To claim for unjust enrichment, the claimant must be able to successfully prove that:

  1. There was an enrichment or benefit received by the defendant;
  2. A loss was suffered by the plaintiff related to the enrichment, and;
  3. There was no juristic reason for the enrichment.
A successful unjust enrichment claim will be required to be paid before the estate is distributed according to the will.

The case of Kerr v. Baranow (2011), heard before the Supreme Court of Canada, helps to clarify many of the questions set forth in regard to unjust enrichment claims. As applied in this case, the courts take an economic approach for the first two requirements – that there was a clear economic value gained at the expense of another. The third requirement, juristic reason, is typically where controversy can arise, however.

Juristic reason is a vague concept. In general terms, it is a reason for the enrichment and loss suffered, like an excuse or explanation for the enrichment that the defendant can give to the courts. The judge in Kerr v. Baranow stated that, “the absence of a juristic reason for the enrichment means that there is no reason in law or justice for the defendant’s retention of the benefit conferred by the plaintiff.” If the defendant can prove there was juristic reason, then the enrichment is not unjust – dismissing the unjust enrichment claim. Juristic reasons can include contracts, loving intent, statutory obligations, gifts, etc.

Legal Remedy Available from an Unjust Enrichment Claim

In unjust enrichment claims, there are two types of remedies available – constructive trusts and quantum meruit.

A constructive trust is a remedy giving the plaintiff a percentage of the defendant’s estate or property. This can arise when monetary compensation is not sufficient to remedy the situation, such as when a caregiver was significantly attending to the maintenance of a property. As an example, a constructive trust could be ordered to a plaintiff who maintained a house while an elderly person was unable to. This plaintiff would receive a percentage of the property that they maintained. This is typically a much higher form of compensation than quantum meruit.

Quantum meruit is a remedy in the form of a monetary payment, typically to pay for services of the family caregiver. Quantum meruit applies both to cases where there is and is not an enforceable contract established between the parties. In the case of a family caregiver claiming unjust enrichment, quantum meruit is a common remedy. In past cases, to determine an accurate quantum meruit value, courts have identified the average hourly wage for the services provided by the caregiver and how many hours were spent.

Family Caregivers & Successful Unjust Enrichment Claims

The law behind unjust enrichment claims is meant to reimburse caregivers reasonably for their work, regardless of if there was a contract in place or not. Most often, family caregivers are people related to the elderly person, who initially provide a minimal amount of assistance. As the person requires an increasing amount of care, caregivers can find themselves working what feels like two jobs as they devote considerable amounts of time to caregiving. The law in BC identifies that these people should be compensated for their services.

Some common examples of instances when BC courts have ruled in favour of unjust enrichment in family caregiver cases are:

  • Children who reduce working hours, sacrificing his/her career to take care of their parents,
  • People maintaining the elderly’s property through housework, yardwork, renovations, etc.,
  • People maintaining the elderly’s financial payments – living, medical and/or rent payments, or,
  • People providing emotional/physical support on a regular basis, for an extended period of time.

As is it common for people to help those they love, it can be difficult to prove family caregiving cases as satisfying an unjust enrichment claim. The benefits the cared for and losses to the caregiver must be very significant. Each case will have different circumstances and facts to help prove unjust enrichment or refute the claim. The claimant should be prepared to prove the first two requirements (as described above), while the defendant has the burden of proving a juristic reason for the enrichment.

If you’ve been victim to unjust enrichment, contact an experienced estate lawyer today. The court process may seem daunting; however, keep in mind that the majority of cases are settled outside of court. We can ensure that you receive fair compensation for the caregiving services you provided.

Have a question about this topic or a different legal topic? Contact us for a free consultation. Reach us via phone at 250-888-0002, or via email at

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