THAT MATTER OF DAMAGES
How a jury arrive at a certain sum as damages is always something of a mystery, although I have heard of a foreman who suggested that each juror should write his own estimate on a piece of paper and that the average of the twelve should be adopted.
It is an extremely difficult task to say how much a man shall have as damages because he was, for instance, falsely imprisoned or because he has endured pain and suffering. Is a man's liberty worth Liao or £1,000? Shall six months' illness be compensated by Esoo or should it be £5,0001 The jury decides entirely on its own. The judge never suggests a figure.
Motor Accident Damages
In an action arising out of a motor-car accident, the injured man may recover the cost of medical treatment and extra nourishment, compensation for loss of wages or profits, and a reasonable sum for the pain and suffering he has endured. The fact that the motorist was very negligent, although it may make the injured man's case easier to prove, does not entitle him to vindictive or exemplary damages. These can only be awarded in the more " malicious " actions such as false imprisonment. assault, libel or slander.
Before damages can be awarded at all, the wrongful act cornplained of must be sufficiently connected with the damage suffered, but once a wrong is committed the wrongdoer will not be excused by the acts of a third person. In one case the defendant threw a lighted squib into a market-place. It fell on to a stall belonging to one Yates. A neighbour, Willis, picked up the squib and threw it over to a stall belonging to Mr. Ryal. He, in turn, threw it away in a hurry and it hit and injured Scott, who finally lost his eye. The original practical joker was held liable for all thc damage caused.
For Breach of Contract
Damages for breach of contract are on a very different basis. A defendant is liable for all the damages which may fairly and reasonably be considered as arising naturally from the breach of contract. He is also liable for the damages which may reasonably be supposed to have been in the contemplation of the parties at the time of making the contract as the probable result of the breach.
If, for instance, the 'bus you are travelling in breaks down and you have to stay the night in an hotel, you may recover your reasonable expenses—the hotel bill, cost of telegraphing and the like. Should it happen that through the breakdown you arc late for an important business appointment and as a result lose a ten thousand pounds contract, you have no remedy for the ten thousand pounds against the 'bus company, for such damage was not reasonably within the contemplation of the parties when you made the contract, i.e., took your ticket.
F. J. M.
[This series of articles began in our issue for August 7, and will continue fortnightly. Why not cut each one out and paste it in an exercise book ? You will then possess in time a complete compendium of the law as it affects you. The series is written by an expert lawyer.—EDITOR.]