Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition
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Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, Second Edition

Edited by Jan M. Smits

Written by leading authorities in their respective fields, the contributions in this accessible book cover and combine not only questions regarding the methodology of comparative law, but also specific areas of law (such as administrative law and criminal law) and specific topics (such as accident compensation and consideration). In addition, the Encyclopedia contains reports on a selected set of countries’ legal systems and, as a whole, presents an overview of the current state of affairs.
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Chapter 76: Unjustified enrichment

Daniel Visser


The law of unjustified enrichment is in many legal systems the least settled area of obligations, and therefore most countries, in developing this area of law, can benefit from engaging in comparative analysis. It should be said that, historically, civilian and common law jurisdictions approached unjustified enrichment so differently that meaningful comparison seemed an impossibly difficult task; and within each of these legal traditions, too, there has been very little uniformity. However, lately the conviction has begun to assert itself that, despite obvious differences, the two legal families have as much to learn from each other as do the individual legal systems within each tradition. The common law, which gave the name of ‘restitution’ to the area of law that roughly coincided with what civilian systems designated as being concerned with unjustified enrichment, has never exhibited a clear (let alone uniform) picture of what lay at its core, or of how it should be approached. In the first half of the 20th century the United States took the lead with the Restatement of the Law of Restitution (1937) and the work of authors such as Dawson (1951) and Palmer (1995) made important contributions.

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