When a person is employed in the services of another for any period of time, the law implies a promise to pay what the services are reasonably worth. The name for this legal theory is quantum meruit. It applies in cases where there is no express contract between the parties.
A person is entitled to recover the reasonable value of the services rendered by him, unless it was understood by the parties that the services were being rendered free of charge, or unless it was not unfair for the party receiving the benefit of the services to not pay for them. Two illustrations:
Illustration #1: Two neighbors agree to share the cost of constructing a block wall on their common property line. One neighbor, who happens to be a mason, builds the wall and the two neighbors equally share the cost of the work. The wall is later severely damaged when a tree falls on it during a storm. The mason, with his neighbor’s knowledge, proceeds to repair the wall. Under these circumstances, it would be unfair to allow the one neighbor to retain the benefit of the work without paying for it. He will be required to pay for his share of the work.
Illustration #2: One neighbor, while another neighbor is away, washes a car left in the absent neighbor’s driveway. It rains before the neighbor returns home. Under these circumstances, no payment for the voluntary car wash is required.
In awarding a person the reasonable value of his services under this legal theory, the nature of the services provided and the customary rate of pay for the services will be considered. The award will include the value of both labor and materials furnished.
The above article is an excerpt from Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, 2nd Edition (Fenestra Books, 2012), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.
Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created.
Don likes to target shoot, scuba dive, and pilot airplanes. Most recently, he has been working on his golf handicap. Don enjoys writing, reading, and spending time with his wife, twin sons, and golden retriever, Lucy.