Money had and received is a an equitable claim. Newco Land Co. v. Martin, 213 S.W.2d 504, 510 (1948). It applies whenever one has money in his/her possession which belongs to another, and which, in equity and good conscience, the other should pay over. Brandkamp v. Chapin, 473 S.W.2d 786, 788 (Mo. Ct. App. 1971). The claim is based on a promise implied by the law to prevent a person from being unjustly enriched at the expense of another. Eichenberg v. Madison’s Estate, 170 S.W.2d 105, 108 (Mo. Ct. App. 1943). Overall, it is not terribly different than a general unjust enrichment claim. Unjust enrichment exists when (1) a person was enriched by the receipt of a benefit, (2) the enrichment was at the expense of the plaintiff, (3) and it would be unjust to allow the defendant to retain the benefit. Green Quarries, Inc. v. Raasch, 676 S.W.2d 261, 264 (Mo. Ct. App. 1984). Applying that general unjust enrichment principal, therefore, a person who has received from another by mistake, should provide restitution, even in situations where the mistake was in good faith.
While unjust enrichment claims are commonplace, it is much more rare to see a plaintiff expressly claim money had and received. The most common example of money had and received is in creditor-debtor cases. A credit card company — or another entity to which the credit card company may have sold/assigned the debt — will sue in, among other things, money had and received and allege that the debtor received money through a credit card or line of credit and that it would be unfair for the debtor to retain the value of using that money without reimbursing the lender. To prove such a case, the purported creditor or debt collector would have to prove that you actually received and benefited from the credit card or line of credit and, absent you reimbursing them for the amount utilized, you would be unjustly enriched at their expense. Breach of contract is a claim that generally accompanies these types of cases.
Contact us with questions relating to money had and received and restitution.