Hospital of Central Connecticut v. Neurosurgical Associates, P.C.
As explained in the 2006 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Vertex, Inc. v. Waterbury, "[a] right of recovery under the doctrine of unjust enrichment is essentially equitable, its basis being that in a given situation it is contrary to equity and good conscience for one to retain a benefit which has come to him at the expense of another." The Hospital of Central Connecticut brought suit against Neurosurgical Associates, P.C., alleging unjust enrichment and theft pursuant to C.G.S. §52-564. The complaint included allegations that the plaintiff and defendant entered into an agreement under which the defendant agreed to provide neurological on-call coverage for the plaintiff for a monthly fee of $8333.33. Years later, the plaintiff sent the defendant notice pursuant to the agreement, terminating their agreement. However, the plaintiff mistakenly continued to pay the monthly fee for eight months, totaling $66,666.64. The plaintiff demanded the return of the sum. The defendant refused. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant concluding that the facts did not support either cause of action. The plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment, in part, as to the unjust enrichment count. The trial court concluded that summary judgment was appropriate on the unjust enrichment count because the defendant provided on-call coverage after the contract was terminated and the plaintiff received the benefit of the defendant's services. Further, the court concluded that the defendant never intended to provide the services for free. However, the plaintiff presented documentary evidence demonstrating a genuine issue of material fact concerning the obligation of the defendant's physicians to provide on-call services irrespective of the terminated contract. Hospital bylaws and regulations required active staff members to provide such services in exchange for the use of the plaintiff's facilities and staff. A fact-finder could conclude that the payments were made in error and the defendants were obligated to provide the on-call services for which they received the benefits of using the plaintiff's facilities and staff. Such a finding would support the elements of unjust enrichment. Summary judgment was properly rendered on the statutory theft count. There was no evidence that the defendant intended to deprive the plaintiff of the money, a necessary element for the cause of action, but acted under a claim of right.