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What to expect from Unjust Enrichment defense?

San Diego, CA |

One of my affirmative defenses against debt collector includes Unjust Enrichment.
So, if debt collector bought debt for 5 cents on the dollar, and judgement goes to plaintiff.
1- Will judge award plaintiff more than that 5 cents on the dollar?
2- Will judge award plaintiff interest and attorney fees on judgement amount?

Attorney Answers 5


  1. Your affirmative defenses have nothing to do with what a judge ultimately awards. Affirmative defenses raise issues that are not otherwise raised by the complaint but that, if proven by the Defendant, can reduce Plaintiff's award (such as an off-set) or tip the results in Defendant's favor. Interest and attorneys fees are also completely separate issues. Attorneys fees may be awarded only if they are included in a contract on a breach of contract claim, or exist by statute. Without reading the Complaint it is impossible to determine whether attorneys fees may be awarded. It has nothing, however, to do with your affirmative defense.

    Unjust enrichment is an equitable remedy. As a defense, it merely says that it would be unfair for the Defendant to pay Plaintiff for some reason (depending on the facts and circumstances of the case) even if Plaintiff has a valid claim under the complaint.

    This reply is provided for information purposes only and does not represent legal advice or an attorney-client relationship.


  2. I hope you won't take us through all your affirmative defenses. The fact that a debt was purchased for less than face value does not make it unjust enrichment. The risk of uncollectablity alone and the costs of collection account for part of the discount. So, 1 - if sucessful, yes.; 2 - see my prior answer.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advise" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


  3. Unjust enrichment is not a viable defense to a debt collection lawsuit.

    The court will award the plaintiff what the plaintiff can prove is the actual debt (certainly more than 5 cents on the dollar), plus prejudgment interest and reasonable attorney's fees (if applicable as set forth by contract), and costs.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, consult with your own attorney.


  4. I agree with my colleagues regarding the nature of affirmative defenses. I also agree that unjust enrichment does not address the underlying claim in a debt collection case.

    I have been licensed to practice in the State of Oregon since 1990. I am not offering legal advice regarding your question, only general information regarding the law. You are not my client nor am I your attorney unless we sign a retainer agreement.


  5. The trier of fact will make an award based on the amount of the debt which plaintiff is able to prove. The award will not be limited to the amount which the collections folks paid for the debt.

    Post-judgment interest will be awarded to the plaintiff (10% per year). Whether prejudgment interest is awarded depends on the nature of the claim. Without more infomation, I cannot provide an opinion regarding prejudgment interst.

    Attorney fees are genrally available only when authorized by a statute or by contract. You have not provided enough inforation for me to provide an opinion.

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