Tuesday, July 19, 2011

When is quantum meruit recovery available even if there was a valid contract?


What is a Quantum Meruit Claim?
Quantum meruit is an equitable theory of recovery which is based on an implied agreement to pay for benefits received.  Heldenfels Bros., Inc. v. City of Corpus Christi, 832 S.W.2d 39, 41 (Tex. 1992); Iron Mountain Bison Ranch, Inc. v. Easley Trailer Mfg., Inc., 42 S.W.3d 149, 159 (Tex.App.—Amarillo 2000, no pet.). 

Elements of a viable quantum meruit claim:

To establish a claim for quantum meruit damages in Texas, a plaintiff must prove that it (1) provided valuable services or materials, (2) for the benefit of the defendant, (3) that were accepted by the defendant, and (4) the defendant had reasonable notice that the plaintiff expected compensation for the services or materials.  Heldenfels Bros., Inc., 832 S.W.2d at 41; Iron Mountain Bison Ranch, 42 S.W.3d at 159-60.

Express contract generally precludes recovery in quantum meruit, but there are exceptions    

The right to recover in quantum meruit is based upon a promise implied by law to pay for beneficial services rendered and knowingly accepted.  Davidson v. Clearman, 391 S.W.2d 48, 50 (Tex. 1965).  However, when a valid express contract covers the services or materials upon which recovery is sought, recovery in quantum meruit will not be permitted.  Truly, 744 S.W.2d at 936.  But, the existence of an express contract does not preclude recovery in quantum meruit for the reasonable value of services rendered and accepted which are not covered by the contract.  Black Lake Pipe Line Co. v. Union Constr. Co., 538 S.W.2d 80, 86 (Tex. 1976), overruled on other grounds by Sterner v. Marathon Oil Co., 767 S.W.2d 686, 690 (Tex. 1989).

SOURCE: Amarillo Court of Appeals - 07-10-00332-CV - 7/18/11

The trial court’s findings of fact make it clear that the extra work exceeded the scope of the work covered by the express contracts.  Specifically, the trial court found that the work covered by the express contracts could be performed “with the use of ‘glove bags’ that do not involve area containment and donning of hazmat suits.”  However, the extra work that was requested by Scheuerer “included removal of carpet, which did require these extra precautions.”  Appellants’ argument simply states that the express contracts covered “asbestos abatement to be conducted by Appellee” and that, because the express contracts covered asbestos abatement, AMS is precluded from recovery in quantum meruit based on the provision of any asbestos abatement services.  Appellants’ argument, however, wholly fails to address the trial court’s finding that the scope of the asbestos abatement covered by the express contracts was exceeded by the extra work as evidenced by the necessity that AMS take the specified extra precautions.  Finding that there is significant evidence in the record to support the trial court’s finding that the extra work exceeded the scope of the express contracts, we are bound by the trial court’s factual finding.  See McGalliard v. Kuhlmann, 722 S.W.2d 694, 696 (Tex. 1986) (when a finding of fact is unchallenged, it is binding on an appellate court unless the contrary is established as a matter of law or there is no evidence to support the finding).  Consequently, we overrule appellants’ ninth issue.

SOURCE: Amarillo Court of Appeals - 07-10-00332-CV - 7/18/11

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