Siegel, Reilly & Conlon LLC v. Cvecich
Allegations that a law firm's client transferred property to her former husband, for little or no consideration, to prevent the law firm from collecting its judgment for unpaid attorneys' fees, can be sufficient to allege unjust enrichment. Allegedly, the plaintiff law firm, Siegel, Reilly & Conlon, obtained an arbitration award, which the District Court affirmed, against its former client, Angela Cvecich, for unpaid legal fees in a divorce in the amount of $150,894. Siegel Reilly sued Angela's former husband, Sandro Cvecich, alleging that prior to the entry of judgment in the collection action, Angela transferred a condo to Sandro for little or no consideration in an attempt to prevent collection of the judgment. Siegel Reilly's complaint alleged fraudulent transfer, constructive fraudulent transfer and unjust enrichment. The defendant moved to strike the unjust enrichment count, arguing that the plaintiff law firm failed to allege that he benefited from the legal services it provided to his former wife. "Although unjust enrichment typically arises from a plaintiff's direct transfer of benefits to a defendant, it also may be indirect, involving, for example, a transfer of a benefit from a third party to a defendant when the plaintiff has a superior equitable entitlement to that benefit," pursuant to New Hartford v. Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, a 2009 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Allegations that the defendant participated in a fraudulent transfer of property to help his former wife avoid creditors such as the plaintiff are sufficient to allege unjust enrichment, even though the defendant and the wife's law firm did not enter into a contract. To prevail on unjust enrichment, the plaintiff is not required to prove that the defendant received a benefit from the plaintiff, only that the defendant received a benefit from a third party and that the transfer of the benefit harmed the plaintiff. "[T]he defendant's focus upon the fact that the plaintiff provided legal services to Ms. Cvecich during the course of the divorce from the defendant, and that the defendant did not benefit from those services," wrote the court, "is misplaced." The court denied the motion to strike.