• December 18, 2023

Minnesota Litigator covered the unjust enrichment case of Herlache v. Rucks here and here over the past year. In a nutshell, Mr. Herlache brought a lawsuit based on his contributions to home improvements for the home of his girlfriend. Without a binding contract, he went to court to get some or all of his money back under a theory of “unjust enrichment.” He won at the trial court, lost at the court of appeals, and won at the Minnesota Supreme Court (which essentially held that the trial court had properly acted within its discretion). Minnesota Litigator applauded the result “as a fair and correct decision and a rejection of the rigid, acontextual, and draconian application of law urged by the unsuccessful party in this lawsuit.”

Now, here comes Hepfl v. Meadowcroft, another unjust enrichment case recently accepted for Minnesota Supreme Court review.

Ms. Meadowcroft and Mr. Hepfl married one another twice and divorced one another twice. Mr. Hepfl brought a lawsuit to recoup his investment in Ms. Meadowcroft’s lakefront property. (Deja-vu or what?)

As in Herlache, the trial court ruled in favor of the man seeking repayment of some of his investment in real property owned by his “ex.” (In Herlache, it was an ex-girlfriend. In Hepfl, it’s a Double-X Wife.)

It is unclear to us why the Minnesota Supreme Court took this case. Why is this case not appropriately decided consistent with Herlache?

It is possible that the Minnesota Supreme Court is not interested in the “big issue” (that is, what conduct is “illegal or morally wrong” such that a court can find one person liable for “unjust enrichment”?) but a narrower one raised in Hepfl. The petition for Supreme Court review included a “sub-issue” (should Ms. Meadowcroft get credit (or off-set) since she made mortgage payments on the property “solely…during a period when [Mr. Hepfl] was in the process of moving out and then was removed from the property due to an OFP [(an order for protection)]?” (see here at p. 2)?

Stay tuned! Maybe the Minnesota Supreme Court (which has had some turn-over since Herlache) has some decider’s remorse on the Court’s ruling in Herlache?