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Law of torts
Topic:-Damages as constituents of torts
Under the Supervision of: Pooja Gautam


SAP NO: _______500028450________


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Objective of law of
Constituents of

Damage in

Damage in
Proof of loss and

Legal Maxim.
Injuria sine
Damnum sine

Type of damages in torts


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Punitive damages

Quantum of

Approach towards pain and


Remoteness of

The egg shell skull rule



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The word tort is of French origin and is equivalent of the English word wrong, and the
Roman law term delict. It is derived from the Latin word tortum, which means twisted or
crooked. It implies conduct that is twisted or crooked. It is commonly used to mean a breach
of duty amounting to a civil wrong.
Of the various attempts to define tort, Salmond's definition is rather popular. Salmond
defines tort as a civil wrong for which the remedy is a common law action for unliquidated
damages and which is not exclusively the breach of a contract or the breach of a trust or other
merely equitable obligation.1
A tort arises due to a persons duty to others in generally which is created by one law
or the other. A person who commits a tort is known as a tortfeaser, or a wrongdoer. Where
they are more than one, they are called joint tortfeaser. Their wrongdoing is called tortuous
act and they are liable to be sued jointly and severally.2
The principle aim of the Law of tort is compensation of victims or their dependents.
Grants of exemplary damages in certain cases will show that deterrence of wrong doers is
also another aim of the law of tort.3
i. To determine rights between parties to a dispute.
ii. To prevent the continuation or repetition of harm e.g. by giving orders of injunction.
iii. To protect certain rights recognized by law e.g. a person's reputation or good name.

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iv. To restore property to its rightful owner e.g. where property is wrongfully taken away
from its rightful owner.

The law of tort is fashioned as an instrument for making people adhere to standards of
reasonable behavior and respect the rights and interests of one another. A protected interest
gives rise to a legal right, which in turn gives rise to a corresponding legal duty. An act,
which infringes a legal right, is wrongful act but not every wrongful act is a tort. To constitute
a tort or civil injury therefore:
1. There must be a wrongful act or omission.
2. The wrongful act or omission must give rise to legal damage or actual damage and
3. The wrongful act must be of such a nature as to give rise to a legal remedy in the form of
an action for damages.
The wrongful act or omission may however not necessarily cause actual damage to the
plaintiff in order to be actionable. Certain civil wrongs are actionable even though no damage
may have been suffered by the plaintiff4

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The sum of money awarded by court to compensate damage is called damages.
Damage means the loss or harm caused or presumed to be suffered by a person as a result of
some wrongful act of another. Legal damage is not the same as actual damage. Every
infringement of the plaintiffs private right or unauthorized interference with his property
gives rise to legal damage.5
There must be violation of a legal right in cases of tort. Every absolute right, injury or
wrong i.e. tortuous act is complete the moment the right is violated irrespective of whether it
is accompanied by an actual damage. In case of qualified right, the injury or wrong is not
complete unless the violation of the right results in actual or special damage. 6 Every injury,
thus imports damage, though may not have cost the victim a penny, but simply by hindering
the right, as an action for a slanderous word, though a man does not lose a penny by speaking
them yet he shall have an action. Likewise a man shall have an action against him who rides
over his ground, though it does him no damage, for it is an invasion of his property and the
other trespasser has no right to come there.7
Damages in contract
A contract is an agreement between two or more parties; either individuals or
companies. If one party does not follow their part of the contract, then they may be liable to
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pay damages to the other. The aim of damages in contract law is to place the innocent party in
the position which he or she would have been in if the contract had been followed. Damages
in contract law will often be liquidated damages, that is, the amount of loss is capable of
being calculated.8

Damages in tort
A tort is a civil wrong done by one party to another. An example of a tort is
defamation, where one person makes false comments or statements about another person. 9 In
this instance, money will be awarded to the second person to compensate them for the harm
done to their reputation. As in contract, damages in tort are awarded to place the plaintiff in
the position in which he or she would have been had the tort not been committed. A claim in
tort gives rise to unliquidated damages; the worth of the damage can only be estimated, not
calculated exactly.10
Proof of loss and damage
In order to be awarded damages, the claimant (the person bringing the claim) will
need to prove that he or she has suffered loss or damage as a result of the breach of contract
or the wrong committed by the defendant. This means that the claimant will have to prove to
a judge (or jury) that what they claim happened actually did happen. Documentation such as
medical bills and receipts will be helpful in proving the claimants case.11
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Loss is damage, detriment, or suffering flowing from the act or omission of another.
It is once this loss occurs that an action for damages or compensation can be brought. A
common example of loss is that arising in personal injury cases. If you have suffered an
injury that prevents you from working, then you may have suffered a loss of income. If you
win your case and prove that you have not received income for a certain time period, then
you will be entitled to compensation for your loss.12
Injury can mean physical or mental damage to a person. This type of injury can
include the aggravation, acceleration or recurrence of a pre-existing injury, prenatal injury,
psychological or psychiatric injury, damage to crutches or aids of a similar nature, nervous
shock, death resulting from injuries and disease. In the case of mental injury, the injury must
be serious enough to amount to an identifiable psychiatric injury merely being upset will not
be enough to have a claim for damages. Injury can also mean interference with a legal right,
which will often be considered as having a monetary value, but does not require proof of
damage. An example of this could be trespass to land, where the trespasser does not
otherwise cause any damage. Injury can also mean physical damage to goods or property.13

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The real significance of legal damage is illustrated by two maxims namely: Injuria sine
damno and Damnum sine injuria. Damnum is meant damage in the substantial sense of
money, loss of comfort, service, health or the like. By injuria is meant a tortuous act.
This means an infringement of a legal private right without any actual loss or damage. In
such a case the person whose right has been infringed has a good cause of action. It is not
necessary for him to prove any special damage because every injury imports a damage when
a man in hindered of his right. Every person has an absolute right to property, to the
immunity of his person, and to his liberty, and an infringement of this right is actionable per
se. actual perceptible damage is not, therefore, essential as the foundation of an action. It is
sufficient to show the violation of a right in which case the law will presume damage. Thus in
cases of assault, battery, false imprisonment, libel, trespass on land, etc., the mere wrongful
act is actionable without proof of special damage. The court is bound to award to the plaintiff

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at least nominal damages if no actual damage is proved. This principle was firmly established
by the election case of.14
Ashby v. White,15 in which the plaintiff was wrongfully prevented from exercising his vote by
the defendants, returning officers in parliamentary election. The candidate from whom the
plaintiff wanted to give his vote had come out successful in the election. Still the plaintiff
brought an action claiming damages against the defendants for maliciously preventing him
from exercising his statutory right of voting in that election. The plaintiff was allowed
damages by Lord Holt saying that there was the infringement of a legal right vested in the
There are many acts which though harmful are not wrongful and give no right of action to
him who suffers from their effects. Damage so done and suffered is called Damnum Sine
Injuria or damage without injury. Damage without breach of a legal right will not constitute a
tort.16 They are instances of damage suffered from justifiable acts. An act or omission
committed with lawful justification or excuse will not be a cause of action though it results in
harm to another as a combination in furtherance of trade interest or lawful user of ones own
In Gloucester Grammar School Master Case, it had been held that the plaintiff school master
had no right to complain of the opening of a new school. The damage suffered was mere
Damnum absque injuria or damage without injury.18
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15(1703) 92 ER 126
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In Acton v. Blundell, in which a mill owner drained off underground water running into the
plaintiffs well, fully illustrate that no action lies from mere damage, however substantial,
caused without the violation of some right.
In the case of Mogul Steamship Co. vs. Me-Gregory (1892). Certain ship owners combined
together. In order to drive a ship-owner out of trade by offering cheap freight charges to
customers who would deal with them. The plaintiff who was driven out of business sued the
ship-owner, for loss caused to him by their act. The court held that a trader who is ruined by
legitimate competition of his rivals could not get damages in tort.19
There are moral wrongs for which the law gives no remedy, though they cause great loss or
detriment. Loss or detriment is not a good ground of action unless it is the result of a species
of wrong of which the law takes no cognizance.


Nominal damages awarded to an individual in an action where the person has not suffered
any substantial injury or loss for which he or she must be compensated.
This kind of damages reflects a legal recognition that a plaintiff's rights have been violated
through a defendant's breach of duty or wrongful conduct. The amount awarded is ordinarily
a trifling sum, such as a dollar, which varies according to the circumstances of each case. In
certain jurisdictions, the amount of the award might include the costs of the lawsuit.20

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In general, nominal damages may be recovered by a plaintiff who is successful in establishing

that he or she has suffered a loss or injury as a result of the defendant's wrongful conduct but
is unable to adequately set forth proof of the nature and extent of the injury. The amount
awarded is generally a small, symbolic sum, although in some jurisdictions it may equal the
costs of bringing the lawsuit.21
The most famous case of nominal damages was when Prime Minister Winston Churchill was
awarded a shilling (about 25 cents) in a libel lawsuit he had brought against author Louis
Adamic for writing that Churchill had been drunk during a dinner at the White House. The
Prime Minister was vindicated, but the jury could not find that his towering reputation had
been damaged.
Contemptuous damages are awarded when the level of harm caused to the claimant is low
and the court feels that the claimant was wrong to bring a claim. They are the mirror image of
nominal damages, in that the successful plaintiff is made to pay damages for bringing the
Let us consider the example: Green and Brown are next-door neighbors who have never
gotten along. Greens dog wanders onto Browns property one day and relieves himself.
Brown steps in the dogs feces, is disgusted, and sues Green for trespass and for failing to
control his dog. The court finds that Brown was technically legally correct and thus he must
win the lawsuit, but that the lawsuit was rather ridiculous and wasted everybodys time. The
court will award damages in the amount of the smallest monetary amount, to make this
statement to Brown.
It is to be distinguished from nominal damages because nominal damages are awarded when
the plaintiff has suffered no loss, whereas contemptuous damages are awarded when the
plaintiff has suffered some loss but he does not deserve to be fully compensated.22
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Compensatory damages are recovered in payment for actual injury, which does not include
punitive damages (to be discussed later). It is a sum of money awarded in a civil action by a
court to indemnify a person for the particular loss, detriment or injury suffered as a result of
the unlawful conduct of another. These damages provide a plaintiff with the monetary amount
necessary to replace what was lost and nothing more.

Damages awarded by a court to reflect the exceptional harm done to a plaintiff of a tort
action. When insult or injury to the plaintiffs feelings has been caused, the court may take
into account the motive for the wrong and award an increased amount of damages.
Aggravated damages are an award, or an augmentation of an award, of compensatory
damages for non-pecuniary losses. They are designed to compensate the plaintiff, and they
are measured by the plaintiff's suffering. Such intangible elements as pain, anguish, grief,
humiliation, wounded pride, damaged self-confidence or self-esteem, loss of faith in friends
or colleagues, and similar matters that are caused by the conduct of the defendant; that are of
the type that the defendant should reasonably have foreseen in tort cases or had in
contemplation in contract cases; that cannot be said to be fully compensated for in an award
for pecuniary losses; and that are sufficiently significant in depth, or duration, or both, that
they represent a significant influence on the plaintiff's life, can properly be the basis for the
making of an award for non-pecuniary losses or for the augmentation of such an award.
Aggravated damages are an augmentation of general damages to compensate for aggravated

Punitive damages are triggered by conduct that may be described by such epithets as highhanded, malicious, vindictive, and oppressive. They are awarded where the court feels that
the award of compensatory damages will not achieve sufficient deterrence and that the
defendant's actions must be further punished. Punitive damages bear no relation to what the
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plaintiff should receive by way of compensation. Their aim is not to compensate the plaintiff,
but rather to punish the defendant.23 They are in the nature of a fine which is meant to act as a
deterrent to the defendant and to others from acting in this manner. It is important to
emphasize that punitive damages should only be awarded in those circumstances where the
combined award of general and aggravated damages would be insufficient to achieve the goal
of punishment and deterrence.24

As explained by McIntyre. J., "Punitive damages, as the name would indicate, are designed to
punish. In this, they constitute an exception to the general common law rule that damages are
designed to compensate the injured, not to punish the wrongdoer

Damages in the law of torts in India are premised on the concept of restituto in
integrum. India adopts a compensatory method and advocates "full and fair compensation" in
all cases.
In determining the quantum of damages, the Indian court will look to similar cases that may
enable comparison.
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Indias formulation of damages for tort cases is premised on the multiplier method, awarding
compensation based on the degree of compromise to the earning ability of the victim. Under
the multiplier method, the fair and just amount represents "the number of years' purchase on
which the loss of dependency is capitalized. Then allowance to scale down the multiplier
would have to be made taking into account the uncertainties of the future. The allowance for
immediate lump sum payment the period over which the dependency is to last being shorter
and the capital feed also to be spent away over the period of dependency is to last."25
The multiplier principle is encapsulated in a statutory form for tortuous cases involving
personal injuries caused by motor vehicles, under the Motor Vehicle Act. However, in so
calculating, the court will take into account inflation in calculating damages.
For instances of pecuniary damages with regards to personal injury, the following heads will
be taken into account:
1. Loss of earning,
2. Medical, hospital and nursing expenses; and
3. The loss of matrimonial prospects.
In instances of non-pecuniary loss, the following will be taken into consideration:
1. Loss of expectation of life,
2. Loss of amenities or capacity for enjoying life,
3. Loss or impairment of physiological function, and
4. Pain and suffering.
Aggravated damages may be awarded to compensate victims for their wounded feelings in
tortuous cases in certain cases. These damages are determined by examining if the
defendant's conduct aggravated the plaintiff's damage by injuring "feelings of dignity, safety
and pride".

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Approach towards 'pain and suffering'

In analyzing pain and suffering, several factors such as severity of injury, medical treatment
required, psychological stress and long-term physical and emotional scars, would be taken
into account.
In cases of victims who were unconscious, one must award not only for the loss of amenities
and loss of expectation of life, but also for pain and suffering. Such damages are awarded
not as a matter of solace. This view comes close to that expressed by Lord Scarman in Lim
Poh Choo v Camden and Islington Area Health Authority, difference being that an award
must be "made even for pain and suffering in case of unconscious plaintiffs". The reason for
so doing is that it "looks strange that wrongdoer whose negligence makes the victim
unconscious is placed in a more advantageous position than one who inflicts a lesser injury
which does not render the victim unconscious"26
There are three guiding principles in measuring the quantum of compensation for pain and
1. Amount of compensation awarded must be reasonable and must be assessed with
2. Regard must be had to awards made in comparable cases; and
3. The sum awarded must to a considerable extent be conventional.
Punitive damages
Being influenced by Rookes v Barnard, the India Court ruled that punitive damages can be
awarded in only three categories:
1. Cases where the plaintiff is injured by the oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional
action by a servant of the Government
2. Cases in which the defendants conduct has been calculated by him to make a profit
for himself which may well exceed the compensation payable to the plaintiff, and
3. Where provided by statute.
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However, this stand has since shifted with an expanding tort jurisdiction. The Supreme Court
accepted a Committee's suggestion to evolve a "principle of liability punitive in nature on
account of vandalism and rioting. The reasoning given was that it "would deter people from
similar behavior in the future. In an environmental tort case, the defendant was made to pay
exemplary damages so that it may act as deterrent for others not to cause pollution in any

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Remoteness of damage relates to the requirement that the damage must be of a foreseeable
type. In negligence claims, once the claimant has established that the defendant owes them a
duty of care and is in breach of that duty which has caused damage, they must also
demonstrate that the damage was not too remote. Remoteness of damage must also be applied
to claims under the Occupiers Liability Acts and also to nuisance claims.27

Remoteness of damage is often viewed as an additional mechanism of controlling tortuous

liability. Not every loss will be recoverable in tort law. Originally a defendant was liable for
all losses which were a direct consequence of the defendant's breach of duty:
In Re Polemis & Furness Withy & Company Ltd. [1921] 3 KB 560
Some Stevedores carelessly dropped a plank of wood into the hold of a ship. The plank struck
something as it was falling which caused a spark. The spark was ignited by petrol vapours
resulting in the destruction of the ship. The arbitrator held that the causing of the spark could
not have been anticipated and therefore no liability arose. The claimant appealed.
There was no requirement that the damage was foreseeable. The defendant was liable for all
the direct consequences of their action.

This was largely considered unfair as a defendant could be liable for damage which was not
foreseeable and therefore could not take steps to prevent it. The direct consequence test was
overruled in the Wagon Mound no 1 and replaced with a new test for deciding if damages are
too remote:
The Wagon Mound no 1 [1961] AC 388 House of Lords28
The defendant's vessel, The Wagon Mound, leaked furnace oil at a Wharf in Sydney Harbour.
Some cotton debris became embroiled in the oil and sparks from some welding works ignited
the oil. The fire spread rapidly causing destruction of some boats and the wharf.
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28 1 [1961] AC 388
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Re Polemis should no longer be regarded as good law. A test of remoteness of damage was
substituted for the direct consequence test. The test is whether the damage is of a kind that
was foreseeable. If a foreseeable type of damage is present, the defendant is liable for the full
extent of the damage, no matter whether the extent of damage was foreseeable.

The Egg shell skull rule

A final aspect of remoteness of damage is the egg shell (or thin) skull rule. This means a
defendant must take their victim as they find them. I.e. if the victim is particularly vulnerable
or has a pre-existing condition resulting in them suffering greater injury than would be
expected in an ordinary person, the defendant remains responsible for the full extent of the

Page v Smith29 [1996] 1 AC 155 House of Lords

The claimant had suffered from ME over a period of time and was in recovery when he was
involved in a minor car accident due to the defendant's negligence. The claimant was not
physically injured in the collision but the incident triggered his ME and had become chronic
and permanent so that he was unable to return to his job as a teacher. He was successful at his
trial and awarded 162,000 in damages.
Provided some kind of personal injury was foreseeable it did not matter whether the injury
was physical or psychiatric. There was thus no need to establish that psychiatric injury was
foreseeable. Also the fact that an ordinary person would not have suffered the injury incurred
by the claimant was irrelevant as the defendant must take his victim as he finds him under the
thin skull rule.

29 [1996] 1 AC 155
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The Law of Torts is not well developed in India as in countries like the United States of
America and the United Kingdom. Hence applicability of its various aspects is also limited in
the country.
Damages form a very integral part of Tort Law. The Legislature should come up with
sufficient and practical rules and theories for computation of quantum of damages. This will
lead to a decrease in ambiguities that we come across in various cases regarding the
calculation of compensation.
Economic analysis has greatly enriched our understanding of damage rules. It reveals that
damages serve a complex and multi-faceted role: deterring risk takers, helping victims spread
risks and compensating them for their losses. This has also helped us to design tort liability
and design rules, which can guide legislators and courts as they design tort liability and
damage rules.
It is suggested that at present damage awards for serious personal injury and death generally
are not sufficiently large to induce potential injurers to take due care and engage in optimal
activity levels.
While considering the situation in India, it can be seen that all the rules for the purpose of
damage calculation are not predominantly utilized.

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