Is it in fact true that anyone who provides a benefit to another as a "mere volunteer" -- where the beneficiary has expressed no desire for the benefit -- is never entitled to recover for unjust enrichment?
That conclusion might often be true but it is difficult to support as a universal principle. First, as the court in Bailey pointed out:
In quasi contracts the obligation arises, not from consent of the parties, as in the case of contracts, express or implied in fact, but from the law of natural immutable justice and equity. The act, or acts, from which the law implies the contract must, however, be voluntary. Where a case shows that it is the duty of the defendant to pay, the law imputes to him a promise to fulfill that obligation. The duty, which thus forms the foundation of a quasi-contractual obligation, is frequently based on the doctrine of unjust enrichment. Bailey, 105 R.I. at 67, 249 A.2d at 416 (emphasis added).Furthermore, comment a to the Restatement of the Law, Restitution, § 1, states:
A person confers a benefit upon another if he . . . performs services beneficial to . . . or in any way adds to the other's . . . advantage. He confers a benefit not only where he adds to the property of another, but also where he saves the other from expense or loss. The word "benefit," therefore, denotes any form of advantage. The advantage for which a person ordinarily must pay is pecuniary advantage; it is not, however, necessarily so limited, as where a physician attends an insensible person who is saved subsequent pain or who receives thereby a greater chance of living. (emphasis added)And comment b to Restatement of the Law, Restitution, § 12 states:
Under some conditions, it is desirable to encourage persons to interfere with the affairs of others. Thus where it is imperatively necessary for the protection of the interests of third persons or of the public that a duty owed by another should be performed, a stranger who performs it may be entitled to restitution from the other, even though his performance was without the other's knowledge or against his will. Furthermore, a person or his belongings may be in such jeopardy that a stranger is privileged to intervene and to recover for his salvage services. (emphasis added)So is it really a sufficient explanation of the court's decision not to grant the plaintiff the costs of maintaining the health of the defendant's horse for four years to describe the plaintiff as a "mere volunteer" and leave the explanation of the result in the case at that?
Or is there another, and perhaps even more convincing reason, to explain why the plaintiff in Bailey was not entitled to recover the costs of maintaining the value of the defendant's horse?
And don't forget that the quasi-contractual theory of unjust enrichment was only one basis for the plaintiff's claim for payment. Why was there no contract between the plaintiff and the defendant?