'All the World's a Stage': The Seven Ages of Unjust Enrichment
28 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2016
Date Written: September 29, 2016
This paper was delivered as a key-note address at the Society of Legal Scholars annual conference at the University of Oxford in September 2016. It reflects on the state of the law of unjust enrichment, with reference to recent decisions of the Supreme Court and the writings of commentators relating to the theoretical foundations of this body of law. Whilst aspects of the judicial interpretation of the law of unjust enrichment are a cause of significant concern, it is clear that the law of unjust enrichment is firmly embedded in English law. Further, despite some commentators arguing that this body of law has no sound theoretical basis and does not operate as a coherent body of law, the papers argues that it is both coherent and theoretically sound. But the paper identifies shortcomings in private law scholarship and in the interaction with the judiciary, and suggests a clearer analysis of what constitutes unjust enrichment. Further, whilst some have argued that this body of law is in its final age and ‘mere oblivion’ beckons, to quote Shakespeare, that body of law called unjust enrichment is mature and remains relevant.
Keywords: law of restitution, unjust enrichment, illegality, property claims, contract, conscience
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