• Pennsylvania Contractors May Recover on Unjust Enrichment Claim When No Enforceable Contract Exists under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act.
  • June 18, 2013 | Author: James D. Miller
  • Law Firm: Babst Calland - Pittsburgh Office
  • Recently, in Shafer Elec. & Const. v. Mantia, 2013 PA Super 111 (Pa. Super. Ct. May 10, 2013), the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that a contractor subject to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (“HICPA”), 73 P.S. §§ 517.1 et seq., may recover on a theory of quantum meruit (meaning that the homeowner should be required to pay for the benefit the homeowner received from the contractor) when a written contract is invalidated by HICPA.

    The court noted that HICPA confusingly permits quantum meruit under § 517.7(g) only when the contractor complies with the requirements of § 517.7(a), which mandates that the home improvement contract be in writing. However, when a written, enforceable contract exists, it is well-settled that recovery on quantum meruit is precluded. The Shafer Court reasoned that the plain language of § 517.7(g) produces an absurd result by making recovery under a quasi-contract theory impossible. The court explained that when a statute is ambiguous, such as here, it is permitted to construe the statute in a manner that effects the obvious intent of the General Assembly. Thus, the court concluded that when a written contract is unenforceable because it fails to comply with § 517.7(a) of HICPA, the contractor may seek recovery under theories of quantum meruit or unjust enrichment.

    This decision is consistent with the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s holding last year in Durst v. Milroy General Contracting, Inc., 52 A.3d 357 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2012), which found that HICPA was silent on quasi-contract theories and permitted a quantum meruit claim to proceed in light of an unenforceable oral agreement.