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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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TRESPASS: SPECIAL VS GENERAL DAMAGES

In an action for damages for special damages for trespass, special dam-ages must be pleaded and strictly proved, the value pleaded being normally a reflection of the prevailing market prices. The vital difference between a claim for compensation under the Land Use Act and compensation in trespass Is that general damages is only claimable in trespass.

— Obaseki, JSC. Foreign Finance Corp. v Lagos State Devt. & Pty. Corp. & Ors. (1991) – SC. 9/1988

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DAMAGES ARE ALWAYS IN ISSUE

Damages are always in issue and so failure to deny them is not fatal: Re The Nigerian Produce Marketing Board v. Adewunmi (1972) 11 S.C. 111.

— Edozie, JCA. British American v. Ekeoma & Anor. (1994) – CA/E/60/88

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WHEN APPELLATE COURT WILL INTERFERE IN DAMAGES AWARDED

An award of damages is within the discretionary powers of the court. An appellate court would not usually interfere with a previous award unless satisfied (a) that the trial court acted under a mistake of law; or (b) where the trial court acted in disregard of some principle of law; or (c) where it acted under a misapprehension of facts; or (d) where it has taken into account irrelevant matters or failed to take into account relevant matters; or (e) where injustice would result if the appellate court does not interfere; or (f) where the amount awarded is either ridiculously low or ridiculously high that it must have been a wholly erroneous estimate of the damage.

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

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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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OBJECT OF AWARD OF DAMAGES IN HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

Para. 43: “In the case of Chief Ebrimah Manneh v. Republic of The Gambia, supra, decided on 5th June 2008, this court set out some principles that will guide it in the award of damages. Though by no means exhaustive, the principles set out in that decision are relevant to this case. Principally the object of an award in human rights violation is to vindicate the injured feelings of the victim and to restore his rights and human dignity. Monetary compensation may also be awarded in appropriate cases but the objective of such an award must not be punitive. The following cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights are of relevance to this discussion on damages: Ahmed Selmouni v. State of France (2005) CHR 237; and Miroslav Cenbauer v. Republic of Croatia (2005) CBR 424 , where the court awarded damages in circumstances similar to the present case, wherein the plaintiff was tortured.”

— Saidykhan v GAMBIA (2010) – ECW/CCJ/JUD/08/10

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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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