Damages

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Special damages are sometimes divided into incidental damages, and consequential damages.

Incidental losses include the costs needed to remedy problems and put things right. The largest element is likely to be the reinstatement of property damage. Take for example a factory which was burnt down by the negligence of a contractor. The claimant would be entitled to the direct costs required to rebuild the factory and replace the damaged machinery.

The claimant may also be entitled to any consequential losses. These are the lost profits that the claimant could have been expected to make in the period whilst the factory was closed and rebuilt.

Foreseeability and remoteness

Damages are likely to be limited to those reasonably foreseeable by the defendant. If a defendant could not reasonably have foreseen that someone might be hurt by their actions, there may be no liability. This is known as remoteness.

This rule does not usually apply to intentional torts (e.g. deceit), and also has stunted applicability to the quantum in negligence where the maxim Intended consequences are never too remote applies – 'never' is inaccurate here but resorts to unforeseeable direct and natural consequences of an act.

Quantifying losses in practice – expert evidence

It may be useful for the lawyers for the plaintiff and/or the defendant to employ forensic accountants or forensic economists to give evidence on the value of the loss. In this case, they may be called upon to give opinion evidence as an expert witness.

Statutory damages

Statutory damages are laid down in law. Mere violation of the law can entitle the victim to a statutory award, even if no actual injury occurred. These are similar to, but different from, nominal damages (see below) in which no written sum is specified.

For example, the possible remedies for misrepresentation in the United Kingdom are codified in the Misrepresentations Act.

Nominal damages

On the other hand, nominal damages are very small damages awarded to show that the loss or harm suffered was technical rather than actual. Perhaps the most famous nominal damages award in modern times has been the $1 verdict against the National Football League (NFL) in the 1986 antitrust suit prosecuted by the United States Football League. Although the verdict was automatically trebled pursuant to antitrust law in the United States, the resulting $3 judgment was regarded as a victory for the NFL. Historically, one of the best known nominal damage awards was the farthing that the jury awarded to James Whistler in his libel suit against John Ruskin. In the English jurisdiction, nominal damages are generally fixed at £2.

Many times a party that has been wronged but is not able to prove significant damages will sue for nominal damages. This is particularly common in cases involving alleged violations of constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech.

Punitive damages (non-compensatory)

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