The law of restitution is the law of gains-based recovery. It is to be contrasted with the law of compensation, which is the law of loss-based recovery. Obligations to make restitution and obligations to pay compensation are each a type of "legal response" to events in the real world. When a court orders restitution it orders the defendant to give up his gains to the claimant. When a court orders compensation it orders the defendant to compensate the claimant for his loss.

Restitution, like other legal responses, can be triggered by any one of a variety of "causative events". These are events in the real world which trigger a legal response. Broadly speaking, an obligation to make restitution can be triggered by two different types of causative event:

#Unjust enrichment

It is arguable that other types of causative event can also trigger an obligation to make restitution, but the above two are by far the most important. They will be considered in turn. It should be pointed out at this stage that the following analysis is based on English law. However, it is largely an analysis of principle rather than case law and therefore should have considerable relevance for most common law systems.

Restitution for wrongs

Imagine that A commits a wrong against B and B sues in respect of that wrong. A will certainly be liable to pay compensation to B. If B seeks compensation then the court award will be measured by reference to the loss that B has suffered as a result of A’s wrongful act. However, in certain circumstances it will be open to B to seek restitution rather than compensation. It will be in his interest to do so if the profit that A made by his wrongful act is greater than the loss suffered by B.

Whether or not a claimant can seek restitution for a wrong depends to a large extent on the particular wrong in question. For example, in English law, restitution for breach of fiduciary duty is widely available but restitution for breach of contract is fairly exceptional. The wrong could be of any one of the following types:

#A statutory tort
#A common law tort
#An equitable wrong
#A breach of contract

Notice that (1)-(4) are all "causative events" (see above). The law responds to each of them by imposing an obligation to pay compensatory damages. Restitution for wrongs is the subject which deals with the issue of when exactly the law also responds by imposing an obligation to make restitution.

Example. In "Attorney-General v Blake" [2001] 1 AC 268, an English court found itself faced with the following claim. The defendant had made a profit somewhere in the region of £60,000 as a direct result of breaching his contract with the claimant. The claimant was undoubtedly entitled to claim compensatory damages but had suffered little or no identifiable loss. It therefore decided to seek restitution for the wrong of breach of contract. The claimant won the case and the defendant was ordered to pay over his profits to the claimant. However, the court was careful to point out that the normal legal response to a breach of contract is to award compensation. An order to make restitution was said to be available only in exceptional circumstances.

Restitution to reverse unjust enrichment

ee also

*Restitution (theology)
*Equity (law)
*Blood money



*Charles Mitchell and Paul Mitchell, "Landmark Cases in the Law of Restitution" (Hart, 2006), essays on legal history.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • restitution — [ rɛstitysjɔ̃ ] n. f. • 1251; lat. restitutio 1 ♦ Action, fait de restituer (qqch. à qqn). « Ils ont réclamé à Paris la restitution de ce qui leur appartenait en France » (Hugo). Obligé, tenu à restitution. 2 ♦ Didact. Opération qui consiste à… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • restitution — res·ti·tu·tion /ˌres tə tü shən, tyü / n 1 a: a restoration of something to its rightful owner b: a making good of or giving an equivalent for some injury 2 a: the equitable remedy of restoring to an aggrieved party that which was obtained in… …   Law dictionary

  • Restitution — • An act of commutative justice by which exact reparation as far as possible is made for an injury that has been done to another Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Restitution     Restitution …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • restitution — res‧ti‧tu‧tion [ˌrestˈtjuːʆn ǁ ˈtuːʆn] noun [uncountable] formal LAW the act of giving back something that was stolen, or paying for damage done to something: • He was ordered to pay £1 million in restitution after his guilty plea. * * *… …   Financial and business terms

  • restitution — Restitution. s. f. v. Action par laquelle on restituë. Vous estes obligé à restitution. il ne veut point oüir parler de restitution. faire restitution. restitution de fruits. ceux qui ont osté l honneur à quelqu un ne sont pas moins obligez à… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Restitution — (lat. restitutio, „Wiederherstellung“) steht für: Restitutio ad integrum, Remission (Medizin) und Rekonvaleszenz, in der Medizin eine Heilung mit verminderter Anpassungsbreite, gegebenenfalls mit Defekt Restitution von Raubkunst die Rückgabe oder …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Restitution — Res ti*tu tion (r?s t?*t? sh?n), n. [F. restitution, L. restitutio. See {Restitute}, v.] 1. The act of restoring anything to its rightful owner, or of making good, or of giving an equivalent for any loss, damage, or injury; indemnification. [1913 …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • restitution — Restitution, Restitutio. Remission de peine, offense, et amende, avec restitution à sa bonne fame et renommée, au païs et à ses biens non confisquez, Postliminium personae, famae ciuitatis, bonorumque. B. Proces recommencez, ou Restitution à… …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • Restitution — (v. lat. Restitutio), Wiederherstellung eines früheren Zustandes; daher In integrum r. (s.d.), das Rechtsmittel, vermöge dessen derjenige, welcher den Verlust eines Rechtes od. eine sonstige Verletzung erlitten hat, aus besonderen Gründen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Restitution — (lat.), Wiederherstellung, Zurückerstattung etc.; s. die Artikel »Rehabilitation, Erstattung, Wiedereinsetzung in den vorigen Stand« …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Restitution — Restitution,die:⇨Wiederherstellung(1) …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

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