The law of restitution offers substantive and remedial principles of broad scope and practical significance. In an outline of the sources of civil liability, the principal headings would be tort, contract, and restitution. In every major remedies book, three of the largest subdivisions are some variation of damages, equity, and restitution. Despite its importance, restitution is a relatively neglected and underdeveloped part of the law. In the mental map of most lawyers, restitution consists largely of blank spaces with undefined borders and only scattered patches of familiar ground. Few law schools teach a separate course in restitution, no restitution casebook is in print, and scholarship in the field is largely devoted to specific applications. This Essay offers a conceptual and practical overview of the field. First, I attempt to define the concept of restitution, its principal subdivisions, and its boundaries with other bodies of law. Second, I attempt to identify and classify the principal situations in which restitution is of practical and not just theoretical interest.
Douglas Laycock, The Scope and Significance of Restitution, 67 Texas Law Review, 1277–1293 (1989).