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THE CONCEPT OF GENERAL DAMAGES & SPECIAL DAMAGES

Dictum

In the legal parlance. General damages are regarded those damages that the law presumes to be direct, natural or probable consequence of the act complained of. On the other hand special damages’ are simply’ such damages which the law will not infer from the natural consequences of the act complained of. They must always be proved, of course, after it was specifically pleaded. In otherwords, in general damages a Court can make an award when it can not point out any measure of assessment except what it can hold, in the yardstick of measurement by a reasonable man. But on the other hand, specific damages must be specifically pleaded item by item and each item duly and specifically proved in order to succeed in the award of such item. See Adekunle v Rockview Hotel Ltd (2004) 1 NWLR (pt 853)161 at 173/174; Adedo vs Ismaila (1969) NCLR 253. Ijebu- Ode Local Government vs Adedeji Balogun & Co Ltd (1991)1 NWLR (pt 166) 135.

— A. Sanusi, JSC. Ibrahim v. Obaje (2017) – SC.60/2006

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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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WHAT IS DAMAGES? SPECIAL AND GENERAL

What then is damages generally? Damages are money claimed by or ordered to be paid to, a person as compensation for loss or injury. In other words, damages are the sum of money which a person wronged is entitled to receive from the wrongdoer as compensation for the wrong. General damages are damages that the law presumes follow, from the type of wrong complained of and do not need to be specifically claimed. While special damages are damages that are alleged to have been sustained in the circumstances of a particular wrong. To be awardable, special damages must be specifically claimed and proved.

– ARIWOOLA J.S.C. Union Bank v. Chimaeze (2014)

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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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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 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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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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