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Construction Consultant Permitted to Pursue Unjust Enrichment Claim against Homeowner

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The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, in a "non-precedential" opinion, recently remanded a case to allow a construction consultant to pursue a claim for unjust enrichment against a homeowner, in spite of the lack of either a written or oral contract between the parties.

In Karden Construction Service, Inc. v. D'Amico, 1351 MDA 2015 (Pa. Super. 2016), the court found that plaintiff had no claim against a homeowner for litigation support services rendered to plaintiff's counsel. The court held that the attorney for plaintiff retained the consultant for that purpose and accordingly there was a contract between the attorneys and plaintiff for that retention. Moreover, the court held the litigation was still pending so there could be no claim for those services based on an unjust enrichment claim. However, the court remanded the case to the trial court to proceed on an unjust enrichment claim for services that plaintiff rendered directly to the homeowner defendant that were unrelated to the litigation but were in the nature of construction management of the work on the homeowners new home.

Evidence showed that in addition to the litigation support services, plaintiff also participated in design consultation with the homeowner, rendered advice on estimates, and engaged in general construction management. The Superior Court held that "given the uncontradicted evidence, [the homeowner] clearly appreciated, accepted and retained the benefit of [plaintiff's] expertise in managing the construction of the ... dwelling."

The trial court was left with the task of analyzing the evidence to determine the reasonable value of the plaintiff's construction management services only.

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