There can be no doubt about it: “The Supreme Court seems to favor woman who got $0 in condo sale.” So goes  the headline of the newspaper article, in KJ’s business section (April 27).

The case involves a 94-year-old Minneapolis woman who suffered sale of her condo, for a small unpaid tax bill, and saw the county keep the $40,000 in sale proceeds. The court interposed the county constitution prohibition that there be no taking of private property without “just compensation.” But the court was silent regarding its ability to drop another shoe: Unjust Enrichment!

Unjust enrichment is a legal term that describes a situation where one person or party receives a benefit from another in a way the law considers unfair or unjust. The benefit may be conferred by chance, mistake, or another’s misfortune. The law may require the person or party who is unjustly enriched to make restitution or return the benefit to the other. This may involve the imposition of a constructive trust or quasi contract.

Minnesota is among roughly a dozen states that permit local jurisdictions to retain the extra money. The referenced press piece included Maine. But that ignored the Maine Condominium Act specifying that any lien assessed against a condo owner “may be foreclosed in like manner as a mortgage on real estate.” (Sec. 1603-116.)

Too, the last paragraph of the KJ article points to the option available to the 94-year-old woman, viz. her individual sale of the unit and retention of the balance of the sale price. But that assumed she believed she could achieve a sale price equal to that derived by the county’s meaningfully outfitted office staff. Likewise, she likely distinguished the differences between apples and oranges.

Unjust enrichment to the rescue!


John Benoit


Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.