Legal Dictionary

special damages

Legal Definition of special damages

Related terms


Definition of special damages

Noun

special damages (plural only; not used in singular form)

  1. (law) Damages that can be quantified precisely, including such things as plaintiff's medical expenses, lost wages, and similar out-of-pocket costs (as contrasted with general damages, such as pain and suffering, which must be estimated).

Synonyms

  • (damages covering out-of-pocket costs): specials

Further reading

Special damages compensate the claimant for the quantifiable monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff. For example, extra costs, repair or replacement of damaged property, lost earnings (both historically and in the future), loss of irreplaceable items, additional domestic costs, and so on. They are seen in both personal and commercial actions.

Special damages can include direct losses (such as amounts the claimant had to spend to try to mitigate problems) and consequential or economic losses resulting from lost profits in a business. Special damages basically include the compensatory and punitive damages for the tort committed in lieu of the injury or harm to the plaintiff.

Damages in tort are awarded generally to place the claimant in the position in which he would have been had the tort not taken place. Damages for breach of contract are generally awarded to place the claimant in the position in which he would have been had the contract not been breached. This can often result in a different measure of damages. In cases where it is possible to frame a claim in either contract or tort, it is necessary to be aware of what gives the best outcome.

If the transaction was a "good bargain" contract generally gives a better result for the claimant.

As an example, Neal sells Mary a watch for £100. Neal tells Mary it is an antique Rolex. In fact it is a fake one and worth £50. If it had been a genuine antique Rolex, it would be worth £500. Neal is in breach of contract and could be sued. In contract, Mary is entitled to an item worth £500, but she has only one worth £50. Her damages are £450. Neal also induced Mary to enter into the contract through a misrepresentation (a tort). If Mary sues in tort, she is entitled to damages that put herself back to the same financial position place she would have been in had the misrepresentation not been made. She would clearly not have entered into the contract knowing the watch was fake, and is entitled to her £100 back. Thus her damages in tort are £100. (However, she would have to return the watch, or else her damages would be £50.)

If the transaction were a "bad bargain", tort gives a better result for the claimant. If in the above example Mary had overpaid, paying £750 for the watch, her damages in contract would still be £450 (giving him the item he contracted to buy), however in tort damages are £700. This is because damages in tort put her in the position she would have been in had the tort not taken place, and are calculated as her money back (£750) less the value of what she actually got (£50).

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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