Quasi-contracts are a legal creation which are meant to prevent individuals from obtaining “unjust enrichment.” Quasi-contracts are not true legal contracts. They are generally created by laws which share many elements present in a legal contract. Due to the similarities between a quasi-contract and a legal contract, the prefix “quasi-” is used because it means “similar to, but not exactly the same as.”
The legal foundation for a quasi-contract is not found in common law, but is instead taken from equity courts. Equity courts were a legal area of England which shared over-lapping jurisdiction with the common law courts. Equity is concerned with making sure that people do not take advantage of each other.
The equity heritage of quasi-contracts can be seen in the fact that they generally seek to prevent one party from being unjustly enriched by the actions of another. Liability in the event of a quasi-contract than in that of a legal contract. Legal contracts assign liability on a basis of wrong doing.
Quasi-contracts do not base their standards of liability based on wrong doing, and do not involve findings of fault. Quasi-contracts differ from expressed or implied in fact contracts because there is no formation of a contract between the two parties.
Although quasi-contracts do not contain the requirements that make up most contracts, they still apply many of the same obligations. A mechanic may have a contract with a car owner to repair the cars brakes. If, in the process of repairing the brakes, the mechanic finds that the axle is also damaged and repairs the axle in order to make the brake repair effective, his repair of the axle creates a quasi contract.
The car owner would be obliged to pay for the repair of the axle, because it occurred supplemental to the original, legal contract. Quasi-contracts, however, do not oblige a person to pay for all actions they recieve which could not have been reasonable foreseen. For instance, Debbie brings her car into a car wash, and enters into a oral legal contract to get her car washed and gas tank filled while she visits a fast food place next door.
After Debbie’s meal, she returns to the car wash and discovers that her car, in addition to be washed and receiving a full tank of gas, has been waxed by an employee who confused her car with another car on the lot. Debbie is not obliged to pay for the waxing because although she received an obvious benefit, it was not one she intented to enter a legal contract to acquire. Since no legal contracts can force an individual to provide compensation for an undesired service, a quasi-contract cannot either.