The remedy of damages—general principles

The following Dispute Resolution practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The remedy of damages—general principles
  • What are damages?
  • Assessing damages
  • Different types of damages
  • Nominal and substantial damages
  • Nominal damages and costs
  • Damages in tort and contract
  • Factors affecting the recovery of damages
  • Causation
  • Remoteness
  • More...

The remedy of damages—general principles

What are damages?

The term ‘damages’ refers to any amount of money awarded by a court in order to compensate a claimant who has suffered loss or damage as a result of a wrong for which the defendant is responsible. It is traditionally a common law remedy, although the court may also award equitable damages in certain circumstances (see further below).

In this way, they are distinguishable from the remedy available in a claim based on unjust enrichment, which is concerned with an unjustified gain by the defendant independently of whether the latter is a wrongdoer. Therefore other pecuniary claims, such as for the return of money paid by mistake, or where consideration has failed or for the reasonable value of goods supplied or services rendered, are distinguishable from a claim for damages (for these former types of claim and remedy, see subtopic: Restitution and unjust enrichment—overview).

Assessing damages

Note the following dicta of the Supreme Court in Sainsbury's v Visa Europe (when assessing damages for breach of competition law):

‘217. The court in applying the compensatory principle is charged with avoiding under-compensation and also over-compensation. Justice is not achieved if a claimant receives less or more than its actual loss. But in applying the principle the court must also have regard to another principle, enshrined in the overriding objective of the Civil Procedure Rules, that

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