Where the trial court awarded appellee damages for his quantum meruit claim, the award is reversed because appellee presented no evidence of the reasonable value of his services.
The Virginia University of Lynchburg, or VUL, hired appellee Flood in 2012 under an employment contract to be the school’s Director of Resident Life and Housing. He was an at-will employee and had a base salary of $30,000. He was discharged in 2016.
“The parties dispute the nature of Flood’s employment. Flood contends that he worked many different tasks in addition to his position at VUL, including overseeing residential halls, assisting with the fast-track summer school program, monitoring the cafeteria, assisting with miscellaneous maintenance during summers, and coaching basketball, often working more than 40 hours per week.
“VUL, through the testimony of its president, Kathy Franklin, disputed this description in its entirety. President Franklin testified that Flood did not perform the duties he alleged, that Flood was reassigned to the athletic department after only one month of employment, and that Flood worked no more than 40 hours per week.”
Flood sued VUL and sought quantum meruit damages. “The circuit court dismissed Flood’s minimum wage and maximum hour claims but moved forward with quantum meruit.”
After Flood presented his case, VUL moved to strike. The court took the motion under advisement and later denied it.
“At the conclusion of evidence, the circuit court awarded Flood $53,184.48 in quantum meruit damages.” VUL appealed.
“Quantum meruit recovery is based on an implied contract to pay the reasonable value of services rendered. … To establish a claim for quantum meruit, the claimant must satisfy three elements:
“(1) a benefit conferred on the defendant by the plaintiff;
“(2) knowledge on the part of the defendant of the conferring of the benefit; and
“(3) acceptance or retention of the benefit by the defendant in circumstances that render it inequitable for the defendant to retain the benefit without paying for its value. …
“Quantum meruit damages are the ‘reasonable value of the work performed, less the compensation actually received for that work. … Damages cannot be recovered if derived from uncertainties, contingencies, or speculation.’”
Trial court calculations
The trial court issued an opinion letter that “stated … Flood’s damage request of $60,000 has a ‘rational basis in fact’ based on Flood’s testimony that ‘his average workweek at VUL was 60 hours or 50% more than a standard workweek’ of 40 hours a week.
“The $60,000 damages break down to $15,000 per calendar year of employment, which is 50% of his annual salary, for working 50% more than the average 40-hour work week.
“The court also assessed payments Flood received during his employment in addition to his contracted salary and subtracted it from his requested damages. “The court determined Flood had already been paid an additional $6,815.52. It deducted the $6,815.52 from the $60,000 request, amounting to $53,184.48 in damages.
“Flood testified on his own behalf but called no other witnesses to testify about the value of his services outside of his role as Housing Director. Throughout his testimony, Flood never discussed his hourly rate or annual rate, nor gave any other indicia of how his damages should be calculated.
“Flood presented no evidence regarding the reasonable value or hourly rate for a basketball coach, maintenance worker, or summer school coordinator – all tasks that Flood supposedly performed.
“The only evidence presented to quantify Flood’s damages was his initial employment contract. However, this contract was for a position in the housing department, and all the other work falls squarely outside this position.”
“The court cannot use the employment agreement to evaluate Flood’s damages because the existence of an express contract defining the rights of the parties ‘necessarily precludes the existence of an implied contract of a different nature containing the same subject matter.’ …
“In order to prevail on his quantum meruit theory Flood must establish the additional work completed was outside the terms of his original agreement. In fact, Flood concedes this point in his brief.
“Using Flood’s hourly rate under his Housing Director contract to calculate his lost compensation for tasks unrelated to housing work constitutes mere speculation. This cannot form the basis of Flood’s damages, as ‘speculation and conjecture cannot form the basis of the recovery’ in a quantum meruit action.”
“Flood presented no evidence concerning the number of hours that he dedicated to each job outside of his role as Housing Director. During his testimony, Flood could not provide a clear answer regarding how many hours he worked per week.
“He testified that he worked 40 hours per week, then 80 hours, then ‘sometimes fifty,’ and finally settled on 60 hours per week. Flood’s testimony was inconsistent, and he offered no supporting evidence or documents to show how many overtime hours were spent on each task.
“Because the record contains no evidence suggesting that all of Flood’s work should be valued at the same hourly rate, it is critical to ascertain how long Flood worked each job, to determine his damages. Damages ‘cannot be recovered if derived from uncertainties, contingencies, or speculation.’ …
“Because Flood failed to adduce any evidence concerning the measure and quanta of his damages, or even to show how many hours per week that he worked in each position (or even how many total hours he worked during each week of his nearly four-year period), the circuit court erred in refusing to strike Flood’s evidence.”
Virginia Univ. of Lynchburg v. Flood, Record No. 0361-22-3, Feb. 28, 2023. CAV unpublished opinion (Ortiz). From the Circuit Court of the City of Lynchburg. (Doucette). F.E. “Tripp” Isenhour III for appellant. Melvin L. Hill for appellee. VLW 023-7-094, 9 pp.