By Team Legal Helpline India, October 20, 2017

A Brief write up giving an introduction of damages in torts by our experts.

Damages are the outcome of torts under Indian laws. The law relating to damages is not very well defined but by and large any tortuous civil or criminal liability amount to damages is the golden rule. The quantum of damages is decided on various factors leading to damages which may vary and need strict proof. The tests of remoteness in contract and tort are not the same in all respects. In the contract, they are subject to the rules in Hadley v. Baxendale. Damages are too remote if they are not natural and probable consequences of the breach in the ordinary course or in respect of which it can be inferred that the defendant undertook liability.

An illustration of these rules occurs in Henderson v. Yeyer. The defendant, who was a manufacturer of cranes, agreed to sell cranes to the plaintiff, a timber importer, for use in the latter timber yard. Delivery was delayed beyond the contract date, and the plaintiff consequently suffered a loss in loading by hand and considerable congestion and inconvenience in his yard, labour by hand being much slower than by crane. For all these items the plaintiff recovered damages, on the principle of Fletcher v. Tayler and Corys case. But he failed to recover additional demurrage on the barges kept waiting to be unloaded, and rent of storage of some of the timber awaiting unloading, on the ground that the defendant was not informed of (and being only a crane-maker could not be assumed to know) the length or times of the timber importing season, and could not be deemed to have contemplated the probability that these later expenses would be incurred by his delay. Such items were therefore too remote.

In tort, it is settled rule that the test is not what was contemplated as the probable consequences of the breach but (once the culpability is established) whether the damages are the direct consequence of the breach; if not, generally they are too remote.

Motive as an element in damages

In the law of contract, damages are given by way of compensation for the loss suffered by the injured party and not for the purpose of punishing the defendant for the breach. The motive for and the manner of a breach is not taken into account because generally punitive damages are not recoverable for breach of contract. In the law of tort, on the other hand, the motive and the manner of the commission of a tort have an important bearing on the question of damages. The more motivated and wanton a tort, the higher will be the damages.

Punitive damages

The expression punitive damages refer to a figure of damages which not only compensates the plaintiff for his loss but goes beyond that and contains an element of punishment of the defendant. In contract, such damages are not awarded. Even where the parties have fixed their own figure of compensation, the court may reduce it if it looks a penalty. But in tort, such damages may be awarded. If a person perpetrates upon another a wanton and deliberate wrong, he may be subjected to the liability of paying punitive damages as a measure of reminding him of the deliberate mischief played by him.

The law of defamation is directly an outcome of the tortuous liability. Under Indian laws, it has been well defined by very specific case laws defining the eventualities of defamation both in civil as well as criminal laws.

Spread the legal knowledge

Recent Post