Lessons from a 'Conversation' About Restitution

  • The Honourable Justice Susan Kiefel AC Justice of the High Court of Australia


In Australia, the law of restitution adheres to the approach exemplified by Lord Mansfield in Moses v Macferlan. It does not recognise ‘unjust enrichment’ as a definitive principle. In the late 20th century, the English courts recognised the principle and, shortly after, the defence of change of position. These developments may owe much to a ‘conversation’ between English and German legal scholars. The German Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [Civil Code] (‘BGB’) has long recognised the defence, as a counterpoint to its broad ‘absence of basis’ ground for liability. Notably, however, English law has not (yet) embraced such a broad ground for liability, and still requires a vitiating factor, such as mistake, to found a restitutionary claim. This article considers what implications the adherence to the considerations in Moses v Macferlan may have for the acceptance in Australia of the change of position defence as it is known to English and German law.


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Jul 15, 2014
How to Cite
KIEFEL AC, The Honourable Justice Susan. Lessons from a 'Conversation' About Restitution. QUT Law Review, [S.l.], v. 14, n. 2, july 2014. ISSN 2201-7275. Available at: <https://lr.law.qut.edu.au/article/view/576>. Date accessed: 18 july 2019. doi: https://doi.org/10.5204/qutlr.v14i2.576.
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