The making of an order for restitution after finding an unjust enrichment by subrogation, is not dependant upon having found any common or unilateral intention of the parties. The House distinguished between contractual subrogation of the kind most commonly encountered in connection with contracts of insurance and subrogation in equity. The former is founded on the common intention of the parties whereas the latter is an equitable remedy designed to reverse or prevent unjust enrichment. It does not depend on agreement between the party enriched and the party deprived but upon principles of restitution. The principles governing the availability of the equitable remedy are that this is a restitutionary remedy and that the appropriate questions are therefore, first, whether the defendant would be enriched at the plaintiff’s expense; secondly, whether such enrichment would be unjust; and thirdly, whether there are nevertheless reasons of policy for denying a remedy.
A court must first ask itself four questions when faced with a claim for unjust enrichment as follows. (1) Has the defendant been enriched? (2) Was the enrichment at the claimant’s expense? (3) Was the enrichment unjust? (4) Are there any defences available to the defendant?
Lord Hoffmann summarised the position: ‘Lord Diplock, for example, was of the view that the doctrine of subrogation in contracts of insurance operated entirely by virtue of an implied term of the contract of insurance (Hobbs v Marlowe  AC 16, 39) and although in Lord Napier and Ettrick v Hunter  AC 713 your Lordships rejected the exclusivity of this claim for the common law and assigned a larger role to equitable principles, there was no dispute that the doctrine of subrogation in insurance rests upon the common intention of the parties and gives effect to the principle of indemnity embodied in the contract. . . Subrogation in this sense is a contractual arrangement for the transfer of rights against third parties and is founded upon the common intention of the parties.’
The principle of unjust enrichment: ‘requires at least that the plaintiff should have sustained a loss through the provision of something for the benefit of some other person with no intention of making a gift, that the defendant should have received some form of enrichment, and that the enrichment has come about because of the loss.’ (Lord Clyde)
Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hutton, Lord Clyde
Times 02-Mar-1998, Gazette 16-Apr-1998,  1 All ER 737,  2 WLR 475,  UKHL 7,  1 AC 221
House of Lords, Bailii
England and Wales
Appeal from – Banque Financiere De La Cite v Parc (Battersea) Limited Omnicorp Overseas Limited CA 29-Nov-1996
Approved – Paul v Speirway Ltd (in liquidation) 1976
The plaintiff had made a loan to a company in which he had a joint interest in order to enable it to pay the price due under a contract for the purchase of development land. The company failed, and he now claimed to be a secured creditor by . .
Cited – Halifax Plc v Omar CA 20-Feb-2002
The respondent occupied a flat as a tenant. The landlord had acquired it by means of a fraud on the claimant lender. The lender had been given an equitable charge over the property, and now claimed possession as subrogated to the original fraudulent . .
Cited – Vedatech Corporation v Crystal Decisions (UK) Limited ChD 21-May-2002
The defendant wanted to amend its software and introduce it to the Japanese market, and worked with the claimants for this purpose. The defendant suggested that a concluded agreement existed, the claimant that only no contract was concluded. There . .
Cited – Cheltenham and Gloucester Plc v Appleyard and Another CA 15-Mar-2004
The owners had purchased their property with a loan from the BBBS. A charge was then given to BCCI, which charge said no further charge could be registered without BCCI ‘s consent. The C and G agreed to lend a sum to refinance the entire borrowings, . .
Cited – Bee v Jenson ComC 21-Dec-2006
The defendant objected to paying the plaintiff the costs of a replacement hire car after the accident for which he was liable. He said that the plaintiff was in any event insured to recover that cost, and the insurance company were subrogated to the . .
Cited – Serious Organised Crime Agency v Szepietowski and Others ChD 15-Oct-2010
The court was asked whether, as second mortgagee on the defendant’s properties, the claimant agency had the equitable power of marshalling of prior charges. The first chargee had charges over two properties, and sold the first, satisfying it debt, . .
Cited – Pickenham Romford Ltd v Deville ChD 31-Jul-2013
The claimant company’s administrators sought an order to have vacated unilateral notices entered against land titles registered to the claimant. The court now gave its reasons for making the order as requested by way of summary relief. The notices . .
Applied – Investment Trust Companies v HM Revenue and Customs ChD 2-Mar-2012
The claimant had properly accounted for VAT on its transactions for many years, but a decision of the European court had latterly ruled that the services were exempt. The claimant sought restitution from HMRC, who responded by arguing that . .
Cited – Benedetti v Sawiris and Others SC 17-Jul-2013
The claimant appealed against reduction of the sum awarded on his claim for a quantum meruit after helping to facilitate a very substantial business deal for the defendants.
Held: The correct approach to the amount to be paid by way of a . .
Cited – Bank of Cyprus UK Ltd v Menelaou SC 4-Nov-2015
The bank customers, now appellants, redeemed a mortgage over their property, and the property was transferred to family members, who in turn borrowed from the same lender. A bank employee simply changed the name on the mortgage. This was ineffective . .
Cited – Menelaou v Bank of Cyprus Plc ChD 19-Jul-2012
On the sale of the claimant’s property, the solicitors received agreement by the defendant bank to the release of their charge over the property for a certainsum, being less than the loan outstanding. In the course of discharging the loan, a bank . .
Cited – Revenue and Customs v The Investment Trust Companies SC 11-Apr-2017
Certain investment trust companies (ITCs) sought refunds of VAT paid on the supply of investment management services. EU law however clarified that they were not due. Refunds were restricted by the Commissioners both as to the amounts and limitation . .
Cited – Lowick Rose Llp v Swynson Ltd and Another SC 11-Apr-2017
Losses arose from the misvaluation of a company before its purchase. The respondent had funded the purchase, relying upon a valuation by the predecessor of the appellant firm of accountants. Further advances had been made when the true situation was . .
Cited – Prudential Assurance Company Ltd v Revenue and Customs SC 25-Jul-2018
PAC sought to recover excess advance corporation tax paid under a UK system contrary to EU law. It was now agreed that some was repayable but now the quantum. Five issues separated the parties.
Issue I: does EU law require the tax credit to be . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 10 August 2021; Ref: scu.78177