Am legally obligated to pay back money that was sent to me in error but I did not know of it at the time?

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Am legally obligated to pay back money that was sent to me in error but I did not know of it at the time?

I bought a phone off of a sales/auction site. The seller shipped it but the express delivery service lost the package. The seller filed a claim and the delivery service paid the claim to me. I was ofthe understanding thet they paid us both for the package. Now the delivery service has called over 30 days later and says that they sent it in error and can I give it back? Am I legally obligated to do so?

Asked on November 18, 2011 under General Practice, Hawaii

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if you were paid in error, you have to repay the money. A mistake or error does not give you the right to keep money that belongs to or was intended for another. Consider: if you  had sent a check to buy goods to the wrong address, the person who received it would not be entitled to cash the check and keep your money; you would--correctly--expect that it would be returned, and be entitled to take legal action if it was not. Similarly, when you receive money which does not belong to you, you must return it.


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