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Courts applying New York law require a plaintiff to allege some expectation of compensation that was denied in order to demonstrate that equity requires restitution. In the absence of any proof that the plaintiff had a reasonable basis for believing she would receive compensation, it cannot be said that principles of equity require any restitution. An expectation of compensation is treated as a required element of unjust enrichment. Quantum meruit and unjust enrichment claims are equated and "an expectation of compensation" is treated as a required element of both.
The plaintiffs, Jonathan Tasini ("Tasini"), Molly Secours ("Secours"), Tara Dublin ("Dublin"), Richard Laermer ("Laermer"), and Billy Altman ("Altman"), individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated (collectively "the plaintiffs"), bring this proposed class action under the common law doctrine of unjust enrichment and New York General Business Law ("NYGBL") § 349. The plaintiffs have sued AOL, Inc. ("AOL"), TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc., Arianna Huffington ("Huffington"), and Kenneth Lerer ("Lerer") (collectively "the defendants"), alleging that the defendants unjustly and deceptively denied the plaintiffs compensation for submitting content to and promoting content on The Huffington Post (www.thehuffingtonpost.com), a website owned and operated by the defendants. The defendants move pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the First Amended Class Action Complaint ("FAC" or "Complaint") with prejudice.
Was the claim that the website's practice of soliciting and accepting unpaid submissions violated N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349 and that the website was unjustly enriched meritorious?
The court held that the unjust enrichment claim failed because the complaint did not demonstrate that the principles of equity and good conscience required restitution since they submitted their materials to the website with no expectation of monetary compensation. The § 349 claim failed because the unpaid content providers were not "consumers" and defendants did not engage in any materially misleading conduct.