This course is about the law of restitution for unjust enrichment: it is concerned with when a defendant may be compelled to make restitution to a claimant, because the defendant has been unjustly enriched at the claimant’s expense.

In England and Wales, unjust enrichment was only first judicially recognised as an independent source of obligations by the House of Lords in 1991 but has now become one of the most vibrant areas of modern private law. Many controversies exist, and the scope of restitution for unjust enrichment is still being worked out by courts across the common law world. In previous private law modules such as Law of Obligations and Property II, you may already have encountered fleeting references to ‘unjust enrichment’, explored in a necessarily superficial way; for example in cases on frustration, illegality, tracing, and knowing receipt.

The course aims to develop in students a deeper understanding of unjust enrichment, and its place within the broader map of private law. Generating distinctive rights and obligations, it forms a body of law independent from the laws of contract and torts, cutting across the jurisdictional divide between the common law and equity. After this course, students will be introduced to some modern debates about unjust enrichment, as well as accurately describe, apply, and evaluate the law of unjust enrichment in England and Wales.