Demystifying Enrichment Without Cause

Author:Nikolaos A. Davrados
Position:Assistant Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.
Pages:1223-1288
 
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Demystifying Enrichment Without Cause
Nikolaos A. Davrados*
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction ................................................................................ 1224
I. Historical Foundations of Enrichment Without Cause ............... 1226
A. Roman Law Foundations ..................................................... 1226
1. Condictio and Actio de in Rem Verso ............................ 1227
2. Ulpian’s Causa .............................................................. 1232
B. European Civil CodesThe French-German
Separation ........................................................................... 1234
1. The French ModelCausality and
Actio de in Rem Verso ................................................... 1234
2. The German ModelAbstraction and Condictio ......... 1242
II. Scope of Application of Enrichment Without Cause ................. 1248
A. General Principles ................................................................ 1248
1. Enrichment Without Cause as Lex Generalis................ 1248
2. Enrichment Without Cause as a Juridical Fact .............. 1249
3. Enrichment Without Cause as Restitution,
Not Restoration ............................................................. 1253
B. Requirements for an Action of Enrichment
Without Cause ..................................................................... 1254
1. Material Requirements .................................................. 1255
a. Enrichment .............................................................. 1255
i. Performance or Benefit Conferred
on Obligor at Obligee’s Expense ......................... 1256
Copyright 2018, by NIKOLAOS A. DAVRADOS.
* Assistant Professor of Law, Loyola University New Orleans College of
Law. The author wishes to thank Arthur Crais, David Cromwell, Trey Drury,
David Gruning, John Lovett, Maria Pabon, Ronald J. Scalise, Jr., Robert
Thibeaux, Dian Tooley-Knoblett, and James Etienne Viator for their thoughtful
comments and valuable insight. The author also thanks Janet Kearney and
Christopher War ren for their assistance in the research for this Article and the
editors of the Louisiana Law Review for their helpful s uggestions during the
editing process. Any mistakes and omissions are attributable solely to the author.
In memoriam A.N. Yiannop oulos: scholar, teacher, draftsman, biophile, mentor,
and dear friend who so openhandedly imparted the gift of   that he himself
received. And may this contribution be an obol for the ferryman.   
 !
1224 LOUISIANA LAW REVIEW [Vol. 78
ii. Obligor’s Interference with Obligee’s
Patrimony ........................................................ 1262
iii. Obligee’s Expenses on Obligor’s
Property .......................................................... 1264
b. Impoverishment ...................................................... 1266
c. Causal Link Between Enrichment and
Impoverishment ...................................................... 1266
2. Juridical Requirements .................................................. 1270
a. Lack of Cause for Retaining Enrichment ............... 1270
i. Valid Juridical Act ............................................ 1271
ii. The Law ............................................................ 1275
ii-a. Failed Juridical Acts ................................ 1275
ii-b. Natural Obligations ................................. 1277
ii-c. Quasi-Contracts ....................................... 1279
ii-d. Judicial Decisions .................................... 1279
b. Absence of Other Remedy: Subsidiarity
of the Action ........................................................... 1280
Conclusion .................................................................................. 1287
INTRODUCTION
Enrichment without cause was introduced into the Louisiana Civil
Code as revised Article 2298.1 As indicated in the revision comments,2 this
provision codified preexisting jurisprudence that had imported the theory
1. LA. CIV. CODE ANN. art. 2298 (2018); Act No. 713, § 1, 1995 La. Acts No.
1041 (codified as LA. CIV. CODE art. 2298 (1996)). The Quasi-Contracts Committee
of the Louisiana State Law Institute, chaired by Professor A.N. Yiannopoulos,
prepared the initial draft of this revised Article. See Cheryl Martin, Louisiana State
Law Institute Proposes Revision of Negotiorum Gestio and Codification of Unjust
Enrichment, 69 TUL. L. REV. 181 (1994).
2. Art. 2298 cmt. a.
2018] DEMYSTIFYING ENRICHMENT WITHOUT CAUSE 1225
of actio de in rem verso,3 together with the mysteries4 of this theory’s
jurisprudential past.
Generally, liability for enrichment without cause requires a
displacement of wealth in favor of the enriched obligor at the expense of
the impoverished obligee. Morever, this displacement is not justified by
the will of the parties or by operation of law.5 The remedy provided is
subsidiary. It is intended to restore this patrimonial imbalance while at the
same time rectifying the inequity of the situation pursuant to the moral
directives of equity and commutative justice.6
This Article explores two mysteries surrounding the theory of
enrichment without cause that still bedevil scholars and the courtsthe
theory’s foundation and its scope of application. Part I examines the
history, characteristic features, and underlying principles of enrichment
without cause as a source of obligations and a special expression of the
more general principle of unjustified enrichment.7 Part II applies this
3. In France, the actio de in rem verso was introduced in the seminal decision
of the Cour de cassation in the Boudier case. Cour de cassation [Cass.] [supreme court
for judicial matters] req., June 15, 1892, D. 1892, 1, 596, S. 1893, 1, 281, note J.-E.
Labbé (Fr.); HENRI CAPITANT ET AL., 2 LES GRANDS ARRETS DE LA JURISPRUDENCE
CIVILE, OBLIGATIONS, CONTRATS SPECIAUX, SURETES No. 241 (13th ed. 2015) (Fr.).
The Louisiana Supreme Court recognized the actio de in rem verso in the landmark
cases Minyard v. Curtis Prod., Inc., 205 So. 2d 422 (La. 1967) and Edmonston v. A-
Second Mortgage Co., 289 So. 2d 116 (La. 1974). ALAIN A. LEVASSEUR, LOUISIANA
LAW OF UNJUST ENRICHMENT IN QUASI-CONTRACTS 344, 35560 (1991).
4. A.N. Yiannopoulos, Presentation to the Civil Law Property Students at the
Loyola University New Orleans College of Law: Mysteries of the Louisiana Civil
Code (Oct. 19, 2015), https://vimeo.com/143021101 [https://perma.cc/V3DW-
8L8K] (discussing “truths, half-truths, and falsehoods” of Louisiana civil law).
5. Scott v. Wesley, 589 So. 2d 26 , 27 (La. Ct. App. 1991) (“The ro ot
principle of an unjustified enrichment . . . is that the plaintiff suffers an economic
detriment for which he should not be responsible, while the defendant receives an
economic benefit for which he has not paid.”).
6. See 9 CHARLES AUBRY & CHARLES RAU, COURS DE DROIT CIVIL
FRANÇAIS No. 578 (Etienne Bartin ed., 5th ed. 18971923).
7. LA. CIV. CODE ANN. arts. 1757, 2298. Courts often use the terms
“unjust(ified) enrichment” and “enrich ment without ca use” interchangeably.
These two terms, however, should be distinguished. “Unjustified enrichment” is
a general p rinciple of law, whereas “enrichment witho ut cause” is a specific
source of obligations. This Article does not discuss the general principle of
unjustified enrichment, the expression of which is found in several areas of the
law, including enrichment without cause. See DIG. 12.6.14 (Pomponius, Ad
Sabinum 21) (“For it is by nature fair that nobody should enrich himself at the
expense of another.”) and DIG. 50.17.206 (Pomponius, Ex Variis Lectionibus 9)
(“By the law of nature it is fair that no one become richer by the loss and injury

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