Gerhard Dannemann, THE GERMAN LAW OF UNJUSTIFIED ENRICHMENT AND RESTITUTION: A COMPARATIVE INTRODUCTION Oxford: Oxford University Press (, 2009. xix + 327 pp. ISBN 9780199533114. £50.

Published date01 September 2010
Date01 September 2010

This superb book is a model of how comparative law can be done. It provides an excellent balance between an overview of a distinct area of the law, detailed discussion of the issues that arise across the whole spectrum of that law, and a significant contribution to an ongoing debate that is of major domestic and wider comparative interest. The book's overall conception owes a considerable debt to the author's years of teaching on the Restitution Seminar for the BCL degree at Oxford. It proceeds on the assumption that English law can learn a great deal from modern German law and that the reverse is also true. The author observes that the subject has a long provenance in England but became bogged down. Nevertheless, he adds, “preceded and assisted by scholarly work, the English courts have recently unfrozen the law of unjust enrichment and have, in less than one decade, achieved a rapid development which in other areas of the law might have taken a century” (4). This useful observation highlights the value of cooperation between scholars and courts in the development of the Common Law.

Part I (chapters 1–7) presents an overview of the German law of unjustified enrichment and, it may be noted, other restitutionary remedies, in the light of English law. This is in the sense that, throughout, points of similarity and difference with English law are highlighted. The comparison is asymmetric in favour of the treatment of the substance of German law, which is very detailed. As regards method, the author takes a middle way between the doctrinal approach favoured by German law and exposition of the case law favoured by English law. His intention is to show that, because of their interaction, the primary sources (statutes and case law) cannot be fully understood without the secondary sources (academic writing). Since English law is the exclusive foil, very little is said about the historical underpinnings of German law. It is often unclear the extent to which they are Civilian or purely Germanic, which in turn, ex facie at least, renders the book less instructive for a legal system like that of Scotland from which many would regard German law as wholly remote.

In Germany the central tenet of the modern law of unjustified enrichment is that the law as a whole is best divided into different groups of case depending on the manner in which the enrichment was acquired. Notwithstanding their commonality, the different groups have different theoretical underpinnings and...

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