California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

370. Common Count: Money Had and Received


[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] owes [him/her/it] money. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of defendant] received money that was intended to be used for the benefit of [name of plaintiff];

2. That the money was not used for the benefit of [name of plaintiff]; and

3. That [name of defendant] has not given the money to [name of plaintiff].


New June 2005

Directions for Use

The instructions in this series are not intended to cover all available common counts. Users may need to draft their own instructions or modify the CACI instructions to fit the circumstances of their case.

Sources and Authority

  • “ ‘The common count is a general pleading which seeks recovery of money without specifying the nature of the claim . . . . Because of the uninformative character of the complaint, it has been held that the typical answer, a general denial, is sufficient to raise almost any kind of defense, including some which ordinarily require special pleading.’ However, even where the plaintiff has pleaded in the form of a common count, the defendant must raise in the answer any new matter, that is, anything he or she relies on that is not put in issue by the plaintiff.” (Title Ins. Co. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1992) 4 Cal.4th 715, 731 [14 Cal.Rptr.2d 822, 842 P.2d 121], internal citations and footnote omitted.)
  • “Although such an action is one at law, it is governed by principles of equity. It may be brought ‘wherever one person has received money which belongs to another, and which “in equity and good conscience,” or in other words, in justice and right, should be returned. . . . The plaintiff’s right to recover is governed by principles of equity, although the action is one at law.’ ” (Mains v. City Title Ins. Co. (1949) 34 Cal.2d 580, 586 [212 P.2d 873], internal citations omitted.)
  • “ ‘The action for money had and received is based upon an implied promise which the law creates to restore money which the defendant in equity and good conscience should not retain. The law implies the promise from the receipt of the money to prevent unjust enrichment. The measure of the liability is the amount received.’ Recovery is denied in such cases unless the defendant himself has actually received the money.” (Rotea v. Izuel (1939) 14 Cal.2d 605, 611 [95 P.2d 927], internal citations omitted.)
  • “[S]ince the basic premise for pleading a common count . . . is that the person is thereby ‘waiving the tort and suing in assumpsit,’ any tort damages are out. Likewise excluded are damages for a breach of an express contract. The relief is something in the nature of a constructive trust and . . . ‘one cannot be held to be a constructive trustee of something he had not acquired.’ One must have acquired some money which in equity and good conscience belongs to the plaintiff or the defendant must be under a contract obligation with nothing remaining to be performed except the payment of a sum certain in money.” (Zumbrun v. University of Southern California (1972) 25 Cal.App.3d 1, 14–15 [101 Cal.Rptr. 499], internal citations omitted.)
  • “ ‘This kind of action to recover back money which ought not in justice to be kept is very beneficial, and, therefore, much encouraged. It lies for money paid by mistake, or upon a consideration which happens to fail, or extortion, or oppression, or an undue advantage of the plaintiff’s situation contrary to the laws made for the protection of persons under those circumstances.’ ” (Minor v. Baldridge (1898) 123 Cal. 187, 191 [55 P. 783], internal citation omitted.)
  • “ ‘As Witkin states in his text, “[a] common count is proper whenever the plaintiff claims a sum of money due, either as an indebtedness in a sum certain, or for the reasonable value of services, goods, etc., furnished. It makes no difference in such a case that the proof shows the original transaction to be an express contract, a contract implied in fact, or a quasi-contract.” ’ A claim for money had and received can be based upon money paid by mistake, money paid pursuant to a void contract, or a performance by one party of an express contract.” (Utility Audit Co., Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (2003) 112 Cal.App.4th 950, 958 [5 Cal.Rptr.3d 520], internal citations omitted.)
  • “In the common law action of general assumpsit, it is customary to plead an indebtedness using ‘common counts.’ In California, it has long been settled the allegation of claims using common counts is good against special or general demurrers. The only essential allegations of a common count are ‘(1) the statement of indebtedness in a certain sum, (2) the consideration, i.e., goods sold, work done, etc., and (3) nonpayment.’ A cause of action for money had and received is stated if it is alleged the defendant ‘is indebted to the plaintiff in a certain sum “for money had and received by the defendant for the use of the plaintiff.” ’ ” (Farmers Ins. Exchange v. Zerin (1997) 53 Cal.App.4th 445, 460 [61 Cal.Rptr.2d 707], internal citations omitted.)
  • “A common count is not a specific cause of action, . . . rather, it is a simplified form of pleading normally used to aver the existence of various forms of monetary indebtedness, including that arising from an alleged duty to make restitution under an assumpsit theory. When a common count is used as an alternative way of seeking the same recovery demanded in a specific cause of action, and is based on the same facts, the common count is demurrable if the cause of action is demurrable.” (McBride v. Boughton (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 379, 394 [20 Cal.Rptr.3d 115], internal citations omitted.)
  • “A cause of action is stated for money had and received if the defendant is indebted to the plaintiff in a certain sum ‘for money had and received by the defendant for the use of the plaintiff.’ The cause of action is available where, as here, the plaintiff has paid money to the defendant pursuant to a contract which is void for illegality.” (Schultz v. Harney (1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 1611, 1623 [33 Cal.Rptr.2d 276], internal citations omitted.)
  • “ ‘It is well established in our practice that an action for money had and received will lie to recover money paid by mistake, under duress, oppression or where an undue advantage was taken of plaintiffs’ situation whereby money was exacted to which the defendant had no legal right.’ ” (J.C. Peacock, Inc. v. Hasko (1961) 196 Cal.App.2d 353, 361 [16 Cal.Rptr. 518], internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

4 Witkin, California Procedure (4th ed. 1997) Pleading, § 522

12 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 121, Common Counts, §§ 121.24[1], 121.51 (Matthew Bender)

4 California Points and Authorities, Ch. 43, Common Counts and Bills of Particulars, § 43.25 (Matthew Bender)

1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: California Contract Litigation, Ch. 9, Seeking or Opposing Quantum Meruit or Quantum Valebant Recovery in Contract Actions, 9.02, 9.15, 9.32