The creation and nurturing of the unjust enrichment principle is the most significant legal development in English private law of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. It is noteworthy that in its early years the judges, notably Lord Goff, spoke of the law of restitution rather than a law of unjust enrichment.[1] Unjust enrichment used to be thought of as a concept,[2] but we should now recognize that we have a distinct law of unjust enrichment.[3] Unjust enrichment still operates as a legal principle rather than a cause of action, but the different rules relating to unjust enrichment are now sufficiently well developed that it is possible to identify a distinct body of law which is appropriately called unjust enrichment.

  • [1] Ltd v Creditcorp Ltd, The Trident Beauty [1994] 1 WLR 161, 164; and Westdeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale vIslington LBC [1996] AC 669, 697, where he spoke of an action of restitution. See also Lord Hutton inKleinwort Benson Ltd v Glasgow City Council [1999] 1 AC 153, 186.
  • [2] See Woolwich Equitable Building Society v IRC [1993] AC 70, 197 (Lord Browne-Wilkinson).
  • [3] As Lord Hope described it in Sempra Metals Ltd v IRC [2007] UKHL 34, [2008] 1 AC 561, [8].
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