‘Quantum meruit’ literally means ‘as much as earned’ or ‘as much as is merited’. When a person has done some work under a contract, and the other party repudiates the contract, or some event happens which makes the further performance of the contract impossible, then the party who has performed the work can claim remuneration for the work he has already done. Likewise, where one person has expressly or impliedly requested another to render him a service without specifying any remuneration, but the circumstances of the request imply that the service is to be paid for, there is implied a promise to pay quantum meruit, i.e. so much as the party rendering the service deserves. The right to claim quantum meruit does not arise out of contract as the right to damages does; it is a claim on the quasi-contractual obligation which the law implies in the circumstances.
The claim for quantum meruit arises only when the original contract is discharged. If the original contract exists, the party not in default cannot have quantum meruit remedy; he has to take resort to remedy in damages. Further the claim for quantum meruit can be brought only by the party who is not in default.
The claim for quantum meruit arises in the following cases:
- When an agreement is discovered to be void.
- When something is done without any intention to do so gratuitously.
- When there is an express or implied contract to render services but there is no agreement as to remuneration.
- When the completion of the contract has been prevented by the act of the other party to the contract.
- When a contract is divisible.
- When an indivisible contract is completely performed but badly.