Quantum of Damages

Quantum of Damages

Generally, when a tort is committed then the plaintiff can avail for damages. It is considered as the most important remedy.  Let me discuss the kinds of damages.

They are different kinds of damages:- 

  • Nominal Damages
  • Contemptuous Damages
  • Compensatory, aggravated and exemplary damages
  • Prospective damages

Let us know these damages in detail:- 

Nominal Damages:-

The harm suffered by the plaintiff is equivalent to ordinary damages. Nominal damages is  when a person has suffered no loss but there has been infringement of the plaintiff’s legal right ( injuria sine damno). In recognition of the plaintiff’s right, the law awards him with nominal damages. In Constantine v. Imperial London Hotels Ltd., The plaintiff, a famous West Indian cricketer, wished to stay in one of the hotels of the defendants but they wrongfully refused to accommodate him. The defendants provided him with  lodging in another of their hotels. Here, it was held that the plaintiff was entitled to nominal damages of five guineas. A wrong is actionable in such cases like trespass, the damage to the plaintiff will be taken into consideration even though the plaintiff may not have suffered any loss. In Ashby v. White, The plaintiff was a qualified voter at the parliamentary election. The defendant, the returning officer wrongfully detained the plaintiff from voting. Therefore, no loss was suffered by the plaintiff because the person he wanted to vote for had already won the election. The defendant was held liable for detaining the plaintiff to vote. According to Holt, C.J. said ” If the plaintiff has a right then he must utilise it and maintain it. Imagining a right without remedy goes in vain. The want of right and remedy go hand in hand.” 

Contemptuous Damages:-

The court forms a very low opinion of the plaintiff’s claim and thinks that the plaintiff has suffered greater loss but does not deserve to be fully compensated. So, the amount awarded to the plaintiff is very small. The reason behind the defendant’s battery is found to be some offensive remark by the plaintiff. Nominal damages are awarded when the plaintiff has suffered no loss but contemptuous damages are awarded when the plaintiff suffered some loss and does not deserve to be fully compensated. 

Compensatory, aggravated and exemplary damages:-

The idea of civil law is to compensate the injured party by allowing a sum of money to the loss caused to him and by way of damages. So, the damages are known as ‘compensatory damages’. The court may take into account the motive for the wrong and award an increased amount of damages when insult or injury to the plaintiff’s feelings has been caused. These kinds of damages are called ‘aggravated damages’. The situation where the wrongdoer is not punished is the idea in awarding such damages. Here, such damages are ‘Compensatory’ in nature rather than being punitive. The excess of material loss suffered by the plaintiff when the damages are  awarded with the view to prevent similar behaviour in future then the damages are known as ‘exemplary, vindictive, punitive. These kinds of damages are not compensatory in nature. Therefore, they only take place by way of punishment to the defendant. 

Lord Devlin held that these damages can only be allowed in the following three cases:-

  • The servants of the government cause damage by arbitrary, oppressive and unconstitutional action and by not extending to oppressive action by private corporations or individuals.
  • Whenever it is necessary to teach the wrongdoer that the tort does not pay then exemplary damages can be awarded.
  • The statute expressly authorises the exemplary damages. In Bhim Singh v. State of J & K, Bhim Singh,was the petitioner, he was detained wrongfully by the police while he was going to attend an Assembly session. Within requestic period, he was not produced before the Magistrate. It was a constitutional right of a person which had been deprived from attending the Assembly session. There is violation of fundamental right to the personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Exemplary damages amounting ₹50,000 was awarded to the petitioner by the time the petition was decided by the Supreme Court Bhim Singh had been released.

Prospective Damages:-

Prospective Damages are also termed as Future Damages. The compensation of damages by the defendant’s wrongful act which has not been resulted at the time of the decision of the case. Such damages are known as prospective damages. To make it simple let us know it through an example, an accident was caused to a person and he got crippled. Then the damages that will be awarded to him by the defendant may not only include the loss suffered by him to the date of the action but also for future likely damage to him regarding the disability.

In Subhash Chander v. Ram Singh, The plaintiff, Subhash Chander aged about 7 years was hit by a bus belonging to the State of Punjab and the defendant, Ram Singh was driving the bus. The accident had caused a lot of severe injuries to the plaintiff. Permanent disability was caused to him and the plaintiff can’t even walk without a surgical shoe. He could not even take employment in certain avenues because of the disability. Under the heading “probable future loss by reason of incapacity and diminished capacity of work” the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal awarded him compensation of ₹3,000. Later, the compensation was increased to ₹7,500 by the Delhi High Court.

In the case of Y. S. Kumar v. Kuldip Singh, The appellant was an Excise and Taxation Officer. He was hit by a motorcycle which led to physical injuries at the ankle. These physical injuries led to permanent disability which badly affected his normal life. On account of physical disability and loss of enjoyment of normal life he was awarded compensation of ₹7200 calculated at ₹50 p.m. for a period of 12 years.

A rule was laid down in Filter v. Veal, “All the damages and the same action are assessed in one because there cannot be one suit for the same cause of action. In this case, the plaintiff recovered an amount of 11 pounds from the defendant for the action of battery. A second suit to recover compensation was brought regarding a bone of the skull that had to be removed but it was held that the second action  could not lie. 

Author: Shaheera Sultana,
NBM Law College, 2021-2024

Leave a Comment