special damages

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Related to special damages: general damages, exemplary damages

Special Damages

Pecuniary compensation for injuries that follow the initial injury for which compensation is sought.

The terminology and classification of types of damages is varied, at times contradictory, and often confusing. The term "special damages" is one such term that can produce uncertainty, depending on the jurisdiction and context in which it is invoked.

Special damages are sought in lawsuits based on contract and tort. They are asked for in addition to "general damages." These two types are classified as Compensatory Damages and are both designed to return persons to the position they were in prior to the alleged injury. For example, if a person was injured in an automobile accident, the victim could seek damages that would cover medical expenses, damage to the motor vehicle, and the loss of earnings now and in the future. Each of these would be classified as special damages. If the victim sought a money award for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium, these would be classified as general damages. Thus, special damages are based on measurable dollar amounts of actual loss, while general damages are for intangible losses that can be inferred from special damages as well as other facts surrounding the case. In this description special damages are damages that are reduced to a "sum certain" before trial. This description is typically used in tort actions.

However, the definitions of special and general damages are reversed in contractual disputes. Thus, general damages in contract would include the difference between contract and market prices, the difference between the value of the goods as delivered and as warranted, and interest on money that has been wrongfully withheld. In contrast, special damages would include all other damages. In contract special damages and "consequential" damages are virtually interchangeable. In this context the losses flowing out of the breached contract could be compensated for as special damages. For example, the lost profits that resulted from the failure of the seller to deliver the goods could be claimed as special damages. However, it is commonplace for sellers to require buyers to sign a contract excluding the recovery of special or consequential damages.

In addition, special damages are sometimes described in statutes when the legislature seeks to identify specific types of awards that are available when the state or a private person violates a person's rights. For example, a statute may list the special damages plaintiffs are entitled to if their real property is improperly taken through Eminent Domain.

Further readings

Ball, David. 2001. David Ball on Damages. Denver, Colo.: National Institute for Trial Advocacy.

Dunn, Robert L. 1998. Recovery of Damages for Lost Profits. Westport, Conn.: Lawpress Corp.

Greene, Edie, and Brian H. Bornstein. 2002. Determining Damages: The Psychology of Jury Awards. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.


Lawsuit; Restitution.

special damages

n. damages claimed and/or awarded in a lawsuit which were out-of-pocket costs directly as the result of the breach of contract, negligence, or other wrongful act by the defendant. Special damages can include medical bills, repairs and replacement of property, loss of wages, and other damages which are not speculative or subjective. They are distinguished from general damages, in which there is no evidence of a specific dollar figure. (See: damages, general damages)

special damages


SPECIAL DAMAGES. Such as actually have been suffered, and are not implied by law. Vide Damages, Special; and 1 Chit. Pl. 385; Com. Dig. Action on the case for Defamation, D 30, G 11.

References in periodicals archive ?
Failing to properly plead attorneys' fees under the wrongful act doctrine will result in a waiver of such claim because it is viewed as an element of special damages.
Thus, even though the complaint failed to plead disinterested malevolence or special damages, plaintiffs' affidavit supplements their complaint and cures those deficiencies.
More succinctly, special damages are damages that do not follow by implication of law merely upon proof of the breach.
The court held that "a child or his parents may recover special damages for extraordinary medical expenses incurred during infancy, and that the infant may recover those expenses during his majority.
If yes, then like any other statement constituting defamation per quod, special damages must be established.
2d 110 (1977) allowed a claim of this nature for special damages while at the same time refusing a claim for general damages.
response to the defendant's argument that special damages had not
In fact, Bustani was not only compensated at his tribunal, he was completely exonerated of Bolton's accusations and his employers were obliged to pay special damages.
On the other hand, where the loss of reputation in question would have to be proved as special damages in a defamation action, it is suggested that such loss would have to be proved in a similar manner in a conspiracy action.
The plaintiffs reserved their right to proceed against the patient's Compensation Fund (PCF) and, subsequently, filed a claim against the PCF seeking an additional $400,000 plus special damages.

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