Martin v. Little, Brown & Co.

304 Pa. Super. 424, 450 A.2d 984 (1981)



There is an implication of a promise to pay for valuable services rendered with the knowledge and approval of the recipient, in the absence of a showing to the contrary. A promise to pay the reasonable value of the service is implied where one performs for another, with the other's knowledge, a useful service of a character that is usually charged for, and the latter expresses no dissent or avails himself of the service. A promise to pay for services can only be implied when they are rendered in such circumstances as authorized the party performing to entertain a reasonable expectation of their payment by the party benefited. The service or other benefit must not be given as a gratuity or without expectation of payment, and the person benefited must do something from which his promise to pay may be fairly inferred. 


In a letter addressed to appellee publisher, the appellant reader advised the publisher that there were certain portions of a paperback publication entitled "How to Buy Stocks" that had been plagiarized by the authors of a later book entitled “Planning Your Financial Future.” The reader provided a copy of the book to the publisher in which the reader had highlighted the plagiarized passages, with marginal references to the pages and paragraphs of the book from which the passages had been copied. When the reader learned that the publisher was pursuing a claim of copyright infringement, he demanded compensation for his services. The publisher denied that it had contracted with the reader or was otherwise obligated to compensate the reader for his work. The reader filed suit to recover one-third of the recovery effected by the publisher.


Is the reader entitled to receive compensation for the services he voluntarily rendered to the publisher?




The court held that the facts alleged in the complaint were insufficient to have established a contractual relationship between the publisher and the reader. The facts disclosed a submission of information from reader to publisher without any discussion pertaining to the publisher's payment therefor. There was no basis upon which to have inferred the existence of a unilateral contract. The reader was a volunteer and could not properly be reimbursed for unjust enrichment.

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