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TWO CLASSES OF GENERAL DAMAGES

Dictum

For purposes of proof, general damages are classified into two i.e (a) Where general damages may be inferred as in defamation cases or presumed as in personal injury matters of pain and suffering (b) Where general damages have to be proved. In the instance case, what is in issue is personal injury. The moment there is evidence of injury, pain, discomfort and permanent scarring, the Plaintiff will be entitled to damages. See ESEIGBE V. AGHOLOR (1993) 9 NWLR (Pt. 316) 128.

— M.N. Oniyangi JCA. Presentation National High School & Ors. v. Ogbebor (CA/B/105/2012, 17 MAY 2018)

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GENERAL DAMAGES ARE COMPENSATION PRESUMED BY THE LAW

General damages are said to be damages that the law presumes and they flow from the type of wrong complained about by the victim. They are compensatory damages for harm that so frequently results from the tort for which a party has sued; that the harm is reasonably expected and need not be alleged or proved. A long line of cases of this Court have followed this line but I shall refer to a few.

– Peter-Odili, JSC. Mekwunye v. Emirates (2018) – SC.488/2014

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OBJECT OF AN AWARD OF GENERAL DAMAGES

The object of an award of general damages is to compensate the plaintiff, as far as money can do so, for the damages, loss or injury he has suffered. The guiding principle is restitution in integrum. It envisages that a party which has been damnified by the act which is called in question must be put in the position he would have been if he had not suffered the wrong which he is now being compensated for. In other words, the loss inevitably and unavoidably flowing from the breach. See: Chief S.I. Agu Vs General Oil Ltd. (2015) LPELR -24613 (SC) @ 31-32 G-B; NEPA Vs R.O. Alli & Anor. (1992) 10 SCNJ 34; Ijebu-Ode L.G. Vs Adedeji Balogun & Co., Ltd (1991) 1 NWLR (Pt.166) 136.

— K.M.O. Kekere-Ekun, JSC. MTN v. Corporate (2019) – SC.674/2014

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GENERAL DAMAGES ARE PRESUMED BY THE LAW

General damages are what the law presumes, but they must flow from the type of wrong complained about by the plaintiff and they frequently result from the tort for which the plaintiff has sued. They are at large in that the quantum of general damages need not be pleaded and proved as they are supposed to be a compensation for the loss or inconvenience flowing naturally from the wrong. They are thus not quantifiable but assessable by the trial Court taking the relevant matters into consideration.

– Yahaya, JCA. MTN v. Ezugwu (2018)

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GENERAL DAMAGES ARE LOSSES THAT FLOW NATURALLY

Once breach of contract is established, damages follow. General damages are thus losses that flow naturally from the adversary and it is generally presumed by law, as it need not be pleaded or proved. See UBN Ltd. v. Odusote Bookstores Ltd. 1995 9 NWLR pt. 421 p558 General damages is awarded by the trial court to assuage a loss caused by an act of the adversary. An appeal Court is always loath to interfere with such award, but will be compelled to do so: (a) Where the trial judge acted under a misapprehension of facts, or law; (b) Where he failed to take into account relevant matters; (c) Where the amount awarded is too low or too high; (d) Where failing to interfere would amount to injustice. Damages are awarded to restore the plaintiff as far as money can to the position he would have been if there had been no breach. That is to say to compensate the plaintiff for the loss.

– Rhodes-Vivour, JSC. Cameroon v. Otutuizu (2011) – SC.217/2004

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COMPENSATORY DAMAGES IS SAME AS GENERAL DAMAGES

Indeed, Compensatory Damages is the same as General Damages which is damages recovered in payment for actual injury or economic loss, which does not include punitive damages. 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. Compensatory damages provide a plaintiff with the monetary amount necessary to replace what was lost, and nothing more.

– Peter-Odili, JSC. Mekwunye v. Emirates (2018) – SC.488/2014

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WHERE GENERAL DAMAGES IS CLAIMED – WRONG PRINCIPLES

When the issue of liability is established by a plaintiff and he claims general damages, the duty is on the trial Court to assess the quantum. Once that is done, an appellate Court will be wary of disturbing the award. However, where the award is manifestly too high or too low or based on wrong principles of law, an appellate Court will be justified and will be bound to interfere with the award.

– Yahaya, JCA. MTN v. Ezugwu (2018)

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