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WHAT IS DAMAGES

Dictum

Damages have been defined as: “that pecuniary compensation which law awards to a person for the injury he has sustained by reason of the act or default of another whether that act or default is a breach of contract or tort”, see Iyere v. B.F.F. M Ltd (2008) 18 NWLR (Pt. 1119) 300 at 345, per Muhammad, JSC; Umudje v. SPDCN (1975) 841 SC 155 at 162; Neka B.B.B. Mfg. Co. Ltd. v. A.C.B. Ltd (2004) 2 NWLR (Pt.. 858) 521.

— O.F. Ogbuinya JCA. Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc v. Longterm Global Cap. Ltd. & Ors. (September 20 2021, ca/l/1093/2017)

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DAMAGES FOR SUFFERING, PAIN, ANXIETY SHOULD BE ASSESSED ON REASONABLE BASIS

Sellers, L. J. in Wise v. Kaye (1962) 1 All ER 257 and which states thus: “It has always been accepted that physical injury and the personal experience of pain, and also of suffering, including worry and anxiety for the future and apprehension of an operation, or of nursing or deprivation of activity owing to disablement or embarrassment or limitation felt by reason of disfigurement, cannot in any true sense be measured in money… Damages for such injuries, originally almost invariably assessed by juries, were said to be ‘at large’, and had to be assessed on a reasonable and fair basis between party and party. There can be no restitution for the loss of a limb or loss of faculty but the law requires adequate compensation to be assessed.”

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AWARD OF DAMAGES IS DUTY OF TRIAL COURT – WHERE SUCH WILL BE INTERFERED IN

I have to commence my reasoning in this issue by laying emphasis on the notorious fact that the award of damages is essentially the duty of a trial court and will not be interfered with except unless certain circumstances exist:- a. Where the trial court acted under a misapprehension of facts or law b. where it failed to take into account relevant matter c. Where the amount awarded is too low or too high d. where failure to interfere would amount to injustice.

– Adekeye JSC. Harka v. Keazor (2011) – SC.262/2005

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GENERAL VS SPECIAL DAMAGES

It is the law that general damages such as the law will presume to be the natural or probable consequence of the defendant’s act need not be specifically pleaded. It arises by inference of law and need not therefore be proved by evidence and may be averred generally. On the, other hand, special damage is such loss as the law will not presume to be the consequence of the defendant’s act but which depends in part, on the special circumstances of the case. Special damages must be specifically pleaded and strictly proved.

– Kekere-Ekun JSC. British v. Atoyebi (2014) – SC.332/2010

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PERSON CLAIMING DAMAGES SHOULD PROVE HE IS ENTITLED TO DAMAGES UNDER THAT HEAD

It is trite and well settled as rightly argued by the said counsel that:- the person claiming should establish his entitlement to that type of damages by credible evidence of such a character as would suggest that he indeed is entitled to an award under that head… See the cases of Oladehin v. Continental ile Mills Ltd (1978) NSCC, page 88 and also Imana v. Robinson (1979) NSCC page 1.

— C.B. Ogunbiyi, JSC. Ibrahim v. Obaje (2017) – SC.60/2006

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DAMAGES IN BUILDING CONTRACT

In Mertens v. Home Freeholds Company (1921),2 K.B. 526, where the Court approved the law on this point as stated in an earlier edition of Hudson. In that case the contractor had undertaken to build to the roofing and the Court held:- The proper measure of damages was what it cost the plaintiff to complete the house substantially as it was originally intended and in a reasonable manner at the earliest moment he was allowed to proceed with the work, less any amount which would have been due and payable by the defendant to the plaintiff, had the defendant completed the house to the roofing at the time agreed by the terms of the contract.

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JUDGES SHOULD SET OUT HOW THEY ARRIVE AT QUANTUM OF DAMAGES

The quantum of damages does not now arise for consideration. We would only point out that the Judge did not record a finding as to the extent of the annual financial loss suffered by those whom he held to have been dependants of the deceased woman, or say how he arrived at the total sum awarded. It Is easier for an appeal court to decide whether the damages awarded can be upheld H it knows how they were assessed, and we hope that in cases of this kind judges will set out the reasoning by which they arrive at their final estimates.

— Brett JSC. Benson v. Ashiru (1967) – SC. 405/1965

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