Louisiana Supreme Court Addresses Unjust Enrichment Theory

Under the direction of the sheriff’s office, the plaintiff performed emergency road cleaning work for the St. Tammany Parish Government that was essential to search and rescue efforts following Hurricane Katrina. The plaintiff claimed that it was never paid for the work performed and brought suit against the parish government under an unjust enrichment theory.

After a trial on the merits, the district court found that the parish government was liable to the plaintiff for unjust enrichment damages in the amount of $37,500 plus legal interest. In so ruling, the district court evaluated the five elements of a claim for unjust enrichment and made factual findings that each element was met. The five factors are: (1) an enrichment, (2) an impoverishment, (3) a connection between the enrichment and the impoverishment, (4) an absence of justification for the enrichment and impoverishment, and (5) no other available remedy at law.

On appeal to the Louisiana First Circuit, the court found that three of the five elements for an unjust enrichment claim had not been met, and reversed the district court’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff. However, on appeal to the Louisiana Supreme Court, it was determined that the court of appeal improperly substituted its own judgment for that of the district court. Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeal was reversed and the district court’s judgment was reinstated.

USA Disaster Recovery, Inc. v. St. Tammany Parish Gov’t.

Mark E. Hanna