How does one put a value on services rendered that have unjustly
enriched another party? The UK Supreme Court wrestles with the
issue in Benedetti v Sawiris,  UKSC 50, with Lord
Neuberger noting the equation of price with value has 'echoes
of Oscar Wilde's cynic'. The dispute arose from brokerage
services performed by Benedetti in connection with the takeover of
Wind, a telecommunications company. Benedetti claimed that he was
owed €87 million for the services (nice work if you can get
it) but was paid only €67 million (Sawiris and other parties
in the acquisition group apparently having had concerns that
Benedetti would misappropriate funds destined for others).
Benedetti brought numerous claims against Sawiris and other
parties, including breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty,
unconscionable receipt, quantum meruit and unjust enrichment.
All but the last failed at trial, where Benedetti was awarded
the €75 million that Sawiris et al. had offered at one point.
The Court of Appeal disagreed: not all of the defendants had been
unjustly enriched, and the liability of the remaining two to
Benedetti was only €14.5 million, based on the conclusion that
Benedetti had been paid for 60% of the services rendered. Benedetti
appealed, holding out for either the original €87 million or
the €75 million that had been on the table. Sawiris countered
that Benedetti was entitled to nothing, as he had been paid in full
for his efforts. Benedetti's appeal failed in the UKSC, while
the cross-appeal of Sawiris was successful.
In the UKSC, there was agreement as to the result but not on how
to get there. Lord Clarke, giving the leading judgment, held that
the value of the benefit unjustly received by a defendant for
services rendered will normally be the market value of the
services. This value may depend on the personal characteristics of
the defendant, including his or her buying power in the marketplace
-- and, for Lord Clarke, that value (and the claimant's
entitlement) may be reduced where the defendant subjectively valued
the services at less than their market value. Lord Reed took issue
with that last point, suggesting that 'subjective
devaluation' should not factor into the equation, while Lord
Neuberger declined to express a view one way or the other. All
agreed, however, that, 'save perhaps in exceptional
circumstances', the claimant's award is not to be increased
because he or she placed a higher value on the services at issue
than they were worth in the marketplace. The 'exceptional
circumstances' under which this kind of 'subjective
revaluation' might occur are not fleshed out. On the facts of
the case, the trial judge's conclusion that €67 million
represented only 60% of Benedetti's entitlement was
inconsistent with the evidence, and Court of Appeal's award of
€14.5 million was simply wrong. Benedetti was fully
compensated by the payment of €67 million.
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).