Restitution – in cases of unjust enrichment (i.e. fraud, theft), compensation paid by a criminal to a victim, ordered as part of a sentence or as a condition of probation

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n. (13c)

1. A body of substantive law in which liability is based not on tort or contract but on the defendant’s unjust enrichment. 

2. The set of remedies associated with that body of law, in which the measure of recover is usually based not on the plaintiff’s loss, but on the defendant’s gain.

3. Return or restoration of some specific thing to its rightful owner or status.

4. Compensation for loss; especially, full or partial compensation paid by a criminal to a victim, not awarded in a civil trial for tort, but ordered as part of a criminal sentence or as a condition of probation. — aka criminal restitution.

5. Archaic. A judicial writ restoring to a successful appellant what had been lost by reason of the lower court’s erroneous judgment.

6. A judicial order for the restoration of stolen goods, or of their value, to the owner upon the thief’s conviction. restitutionary, adj. [1]

1. The restoration to a person that of which he has been wrongly deprived.  Relief against the unjust enrichment of one person at the expense of anotehr.  Relief for one who has been compelled to pay money under a judgment since reversed. 5 Am J2d A & E §§ 997, et seq.

The restoration of property of which one has been deprived under a judgment since reversed. 5 Am J2d A & E § 1004.

The ordinary form of judgment for the plaintiff in an action for forcible entry and detainer; awarding restitution of the premises to him, with costs. 22 Am J1st Forc E & D § 48.

In the modern sense of the term, compensation, reimbursement, indemnification or reparation for benefits derived from, or for loss or injury caused to another. Holloway v People’s Water Co. 100 Kan 414, 167 P 265, 2 ALR 161.
     See restoration rule unjust enrichment; writ of restitution. [2]

1. In both contract and tort, a remedy that restores the status quo.  Restitution returns a person who has been wrongfully deprived of something to the position he occupied before the wrong occurred; it requires a defendant who has been unjustly enriched at the expense of the plaintiff to make the plaintiff whole, either, as may be appropriate, by returning property unjustly held, by reimbursing the plaintiff, or by paying compensation or indemnification.
     See unjust enrichment.  See also make whole.

1. In criminal law, a restitution is sometimes make a condition of probation for persons convicted of certain types of crimes. [3]

     Excerpt from George E. Palmer’s The Law of Restitution:

    “The term ‘restitution’ appears in early decisions, but general recognition probably began with the publication of the Restatement of Restitution [in 1937]. The term is not wholly apt since it suggests restoration to the successful party of some benefit obtained from him. Usually this will be the case where relief is given, but by no means always.  There are cases in which the successful party obtains restitution of something he did not have before, for example a benefit received by the defendant from a third person which justly should go to the plaintiff.[4]

     Excerpt from John D. Calamari & Joseph M. Perillo’s The Law of Contracts:

     “‘Restitution’ is an ambiguous term, sometimes referring to the disgorging of something which has been taken, and at times referring to compensation for injury done.  Often, the result under either meaning of the term would be the same. If the plaintiff has been defrauded into paying $1,000 to the defendant, his loss & the defendant’s gain coincide.  Where they do not coincide, as where the plaintiff is out of pocket more than the defendant has gained & the defendant’s conduct it tortious, the plaintiff will recover his loss in a quasi-contractual or equitable action for restitution. Unjust impoverishment as well as unjust enrichment is a ground for restitution.  If the defendant is guilty of a non-tortious misrepresentation, the measure of recovery is not rigid but, as in other cases of restitution, such factors as relative fault, the agreed upon risks, and the fairness of alternative risk allocations not agreed upon and not attributable to the fault of either party need to be weighed.[5]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: 1 George E. Palmer, The Law of Restitution § 1.1, at 4 (1978)

[5]: John D. Calamari & Joseph M. Perillo’s The Law of Contracts


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