Research Paper Number



Andrew Kull

Subsequently published in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.

Document Type


Publication Date



Contract law; failure of consideration; American Restitution


Recent English commentary employs the timeworn expression “failure of consideration” in an unprecedented way. It can now designate an expansive residual category of grounds for restitution: at its fullest, “the failure to sustain itself of the state of affairs contemplated as a basis” for a transaction by which one party is enriched at the expense of another. (Because the result is plainly to incorporate a civilian-style “absence of basis” test within common-law unjust enrichment, the new “failure of consideration” carries an incidental implication for Canadian restitution law: if Garland v. Consumers’ Gas really announced a shift from common-law “unjust factors” to civilian “absence of basis,” the change may not make that much difference.) Contrasting approaches to “failure of consideration” illustrate a broader difference in attitudes toward “restitution in a contractual context”: English law looks “off the contract” in situations where US law finds answers in the contract itself.