It is well established that sub-subcontractors may not maintain direct actions against EPC contractors or owners based upon a theory of unjust enrichment or quantum meruit. The Appellate Division in Insulation Contracting, Inc. v. Kravco, 209 N.J. Super. 367 (App. Div. 1986), held that, in such situations, a basic premise of the theories of unjust enrichment and quantum meruit is that there must be a clear expectation by the defendant that it will be responsible for payment directly to the plaintiff. The fact that the defendant may have received a benefit for which it has not paid is not sufficient. Id. at 378.
Such was also the explicit holding in F. Bender, Inc. v. Muscarelle, Inc., 304 N.J. Super. 282, 285 (App. Div. 1997):
We know of no case where the statutory protections given to a subcontractor or sub-subcontractor by filing a notice of intention or stop notice could be replicated by a common law claim based upon quantum meruit. Such a rule would create havoc in the construction industry. See Insulation Contracting & Supply v. Kravco, Inc., supra, (denying similar reimbursement in a claim by a sub-subcontractor against the prime contractor after the subcontractor for whom the plaintiff had performed defaulted).
In this case, Hertz had an obligation to pay its contractor, and, Muscarelle, the contractor, had an obligation to pay its subcontractor, Tri-Gee, who in turn had an obligation to pay plaintiff, its subcontractor. When plaintiff performed, it had a claim only against Tri-Gee unless it filed a notice of intention or stop notice in compliance with the Mechanics’ Lien Law. It is true that Hertz and/or Muscarelle may have received the benefit of plaintiff’s work; however, Tri-Gee owes plaintiff for that work.
Quantum meruit, which plaintiff seeks, requires that there be unjust enrichment. Callano v. Oakwood Park Homes Corp., 91 N.J. Super. 105, 108- 109, 219 A.2d 332 (App.Div.1966). Here, there was no unjust enrichment.
Id. at 284-5.
Therefore, the sub-subcontractor’s unjust enrichment and quantum meruit claims against the EPC contractor and owner will not support any cognizable claim for relief, and must be dismissed. Printing Mart-Morristown v. Sharp Electronics Corp., 116 N.J. 739, 746 (1989); Leon v. Rite Aid Corp., 340 N.J. Super. 462, 466 (App. Div. 2001); Rule 4:6-2(e). The sub-subcontractor is thus left to seek redress under the statutory provisions of the construction lien law, and through its direct contractual claims against the subcontractor.
Technorati Tags: New Jersey : EPC Contractors