Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Quantum Meruit & Clean Hands Doctrine

QUANTUM MERUIT AS THEORY OF RECOVERY DEFINED Quantum meruit is an equitable remedy that "'is based upon the promise implied by law to pay for beneficial services rendered and knowingly accepted.'" Vortt Exploration, Inc. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 787 S.W.2d 942, 944 (Tex. 1990) (quoting Truly v. Austin, 744 S.W.2d 934, 936 (Tex. 1988)). Founded on unjust enrichment, quantum meruit "will be had when non-payment for the services rendered would 'result in an unjust enrichment to the party benefitted by the work.'" Id. (quoting City of Ingleside v. Stewart, 554 S.W.2d 939, 943 (Tex. Civ. App.—Corpus Christi 1977, writ ref'd n.r.e.)). CLEAN HANDS REQUIRED FOR RELIEF IN EQUITY A party seeking an equitable remedy, such as quantum meruit, must come to court with "clean hands." In re Gamble, 71 S.W.3d 313, 325 (Tex. 2002) (Baker, J., concurring); Truly, 744 S.W.2d at 938; Omohundro v. Matthews, 161 Tex. 367, 381, 341 S.W.2d 401, 410 (1960). This clean hands doctrine requires that one who seeks equity, does equity; equitable relief is not warranted when the plaintiff has engaged in unconscionable, unjust, or inequitable conduct with regard to the issue in dispute. In re Francis, 186 S.W.3d 534, 551 (Tex. 2006); Thomas v. McNair, 882 S.W.2d 870, 880 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 1994, no writ). WHEN IS (UN) CLEAN HANDS DOCTRINE APPLIED? WHEN NOT? The clean hands doctrine is not, however, absolute. Omohundro, 341 S.W.2d at 410. It should not be applied unless the party asserting the doctrine has been harmed and the wrong complained of cannot be corrected without the application of the doctrine. City of Fredericksburg v. Bopp, 126 S.W.3d 218, 221 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2003, no pet.); Thomas, 882 S.W.2d at 880; see also Omohundro, 341 S.W.3d at 410 (setting out that the party complaining that his opponent is in court with "unclean hands . . . must show that he himself has been injured by such conduct" and "the wrong must have been done to the defendant himself and not to some third party"); Afri Carib Enters., Inc. v. Mabon Ltd., 287 S.W.3d 217, 222 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2009, no pet.) (explaining that the trial court cannot apply the clean hands doctrine unless "the misconduct at issue is connected to the subject of the litigation and the party asserting the defense has been seriously harmed by the misconduct"). SOURCE: Corpus Christi Court of Appeals - 13-09-00355-CV - 6/9/11 UNCLEAN HANDS CASE LAW CITES FROM OTHER COURTS, INCLUDING TEXAS SUPREME COURT Truly v. Austin, 744 S.W.2d 934, 938 (Tex. 1988) ("It is well-settled that a party seeking an equitable remedy must do equity and come to court with clean hands."). A party seeking to invoke this equitable doctrine must show that he has been seriously harmed and the wrong complained of cannot be corrected without applying the doctrine. City of Fredericksburg v. Bopp, 126 S.W.3d 218, 221 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2003, no pet.). A party seeking an equitable remedy must do equity and come to court with clean hands. Truly v. Austin, 744 S.W.2d 934, 938 (Tex.1988); Crown Constr. Co. v. Huddleston, 961 S.W.2d 552, 559 221*221 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 1997, no pet.). The doctrine of unclean hands applies to a litigant whose own conduct in connection with the same matter or transaction has been unconscientious, unjust, marked by a want of good faith or violates the principles of equity and righteous dealing. Crown Constr. Co., 961 S.W.2d at 559; Thomas v. McNair, 882 S.W.2d 870, 880 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1994, no writ). A party seeking to invoke this equitable doctrine must show that he has been seriously harmed and the wrong complained of cannot be corrected without applying the doctrine. Thomas, 882 S.W.2d at 880. A party seeking to invoke this equitable doctrine must show that he has been seriously harmed and the wrong complained of cannot be corrected without applying the doctrine. City of Fredericksburg v. Bopp, 126 S.W.3d 218, 221 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2003, no pet.). RELATED LEGAL TERMS: equitable claims and remedies, clean and unclean hands doctrine, equitable estoppel