Damages: As a constituent of Tort


A Tort is an action or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another amounting to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability. In the context of torts, “injury” describes the invasion of any legal right, whereas “harm” describes a loss or detriment in fact that a person suffers.

A tort is a civil wrong done by one party to another. An example of a tort is slander, where one individual puts forth false remarks or expressions about someone else. In this note, damages would be granted to the second individual to remunerate them for the harm caused to their notoriety.


Damage means the harm, the loss suffered or presumed to be suffered by a person as a result of some wrongful act of others. The sum of money awarded by the court to compensate for the “damage” caused is called “damages”.

There are six types of damages:

  • Contemptuous damages
  • Nominal damages
  • Compensatory damages
  • Exemplary damages
  • Aggravated damages

These all come under the ambit of Punitive Damages. It is also possible for more than one of these damages to be given in one single case. However, certain combinations of damages are not possible, such as nominal and compensatory damages. There are certain legal terms to define damages, i.e. “Damnum Sine Injuria” and “Injuria Sine Damno”.

What is Damnum Sine Injuria and Injuria Sine Damno?

“Damnum Sine Injuria”

It means damage caused to someone without legally injuring the person. A loss for which the law provides no means of recovery.

“Injuria Sine Damno”

It means a legal injury caused to someone without inhibiting damages. A wrong that causes no damage sustaining an action for relief.


  • ASHBY VS WHITE,(1703) 2 Ld. Raym. 938,

would be used to explain Damages.


Mr. Ashby was prevented from voting in an election by the misfeasance of a returning officer Mr. William White, on the apparent pretext that he was not a settled inhabitant. The candidate whom Mr. Ashby wanted to vote won the elections.


Was any damage caused to Mr. Ashby and was there any breach of duty by the returning officer Mr. White?


The case was first tried in the King’s Bench, in this trial, the majority of the judges said that as the candidate whom Mr. Ashby wanted to vote won the election, there was no damage caused to Mr. Ashby. But one of the judges (Lord Holt CJ) gave a dissenting Judgment. He said that the plaintiff had a legal right to vote for his favorite candidate but his right to vote was infringed and “If the plaintiff has a right, he must of necessity have the means to vindicate and maintain it, and a remedy if he is injured in the exercise or enjoyment of it, and, indeed it is a vain thing to imagine a right without a remedy; where there is right there is the remedy.


He also said that in this case, the returning officer had acted maliciously as the returning officer while exercising his power honestly refused an eligible voter and the defendant can’t prove that the plaintiff has not suffered any damage. When the case went into the House of Lords, the dissenting judgment of Lord Holt CJ was upheld by the vote of 50 to 16. Later in the House of the Lords, this case was supported by the concept that “when there is an infringement of an absolute private right the plaintiff doesn’t have the burden of proving damage caused and it was further supported by the Legal maxim Injuria Sine Damnum which means that if there is an infringement of legal right without any actual damage the damages will be awarded to the plaintiff”.

In this case, we saw that there was no actual damage caused to the plaintiff but his legal right was infringed thus he was awarded the damages.


2) Liebeck vs McDonald’s Restaurants 1994

In 1994, Stella Liebeck a 79-year-old lady bought coffee from McDonald’s Restaurant, while opening the lid of the coffee she accidentally spilled the coffee over her lap.


  • Stella Liebeck had spilled coffee on her laps in her parked car due to which she suffered burns.
  • Her 16% body was burnt out of which 6% was 3rd-degree burns.
  • It was proved serving coffee at this rate can cause 3rd-degree burns within 15 seconds.


  • Whether McDonald’s owed a duty of care towards Mrs. Stella Liebeck?
  • If yes, had they breached their duty?


This is the case of Negligence, the fact of not giving enough care or attention to someone or something is called Negligence. From the year 1983 to 1992 nearly 700 people were burned due to the high-temperature coffee of McDonald’s restaurant, The coffee though set up at industrial standards was capable of causing severe burns within 15 seconds as it was 30 degrees more than the house making coffee machine. They owed a duty of care towards their customers and they breached their duty by not paying attention to the complaints of various customers who eventually suffered 3rd-degree burns just like Stella Liebeck.


When the case went to trial, the jury determined that Mrs.Liebeck is 20% liable because she didn’t read the warning label carefully, and the rest 80% liability was fixed at McDonald’s restaurants. Mrs. Liebeck was awarded $1,60,000 as compensatory damages and an additional $2.7 million as Punitive Damages. However Mrs. Stella Liebeck did not receive millions in damages, that amount was reduced to $4,80,000. Sources say Mrs. Stella Liebeck did not receive millions but rather negotiated after a trial at an undisclosed amount that was reported somewhere between $6,00,000.

In the above case, we see the plaintiff’s right i.e. Right to Bodily safety has been infringed, thus she was awarded both Compensatory as well as Punitive Damages.


After analyzing the cases, I would conclude by stating that in the case of Ashby v. White, there was an infringement of an absolute private right without any actual loss or damage, the person whose right is infringed has a cause of action and he may bring an action without being under the necessity of proving, special damage because the injury itself is taken to imply damage. While in the next case of Liebeck v. Mc Donald’s restaurant, there was a clear negligence on the part of the defendant which led to the bodily harm to the plaintiff for which the damages were procured.

I also learned about the difference between Damages in Contract & Damages in Tort.

Damages in the contract- A contract is the agreement between two or more parties, can be individuals or companies with the free consent of both of them. On the off chance that one of the parties neglects to play out its piece of the agreement, at that point they might be obligated to pay damages to the next. The point of damages in contract law is to put the aggrieved party in the position which it would have been in if the agreement had been taken fulfilled. Damages in contract law will often be liquidated damages, that is, the amount of loss is capable of being calculated.

Damages in Tort- A tort is a civil wrong done by one party to another. An example of a tort is slander, where one individual puts forth false remarks or expressions about someone else. In this note, damages will be granted to the second individual to remunerate them for the harm caused to their notoriety. As in contract, damages in tort are awarded to place the plaintiff in the position in which he or she would have been had, if the tort would not have been committed. A claim in tort gives rise to unliquidated damages, the worth of the damage can only be calculated approximately,  not calculated exactly.










Author: Arunabh Srivastava,
Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA, 2nd Year

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