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WHAT IS DAMAGES? SPECIAL AND GENERAL

Dictum

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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COURT OF APPEAL CAN ASSESS DAMAGES

As such is the position, there is now no need for this court or the Court of Appeal to look at an issue of damages as if it were a sacred cow reserved for the court of trial. The correct approach ought to be that unless an issue of credibility of witnesses as to damages arises in the proceedings, the appellate court ought, on entering or affirming a judgment in favour of the plaintiff, to assess and award damages to which he is entitled.

– Pats-Acholonu, JSC. C & C Constr. v. Okhai (2003) – SC.8/1999

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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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SPECIAL DAMAGES VS GENERAL DAMAGES

It is no longer a matter for contention that the principle in regard to the assessment and award of special damages is different from that of general damages: see Ijebu-Ode Local Govemment v.Adedeji Balogun & Co (1991) 1NWLR(Pt.166) 136 at p. 158; Eseigbe v.Agholor (1993) 9 NWLR (Pt.316) 128 at p. 145. In the former, damages are specially pleaded, strictly proved and accordingly awarded; in the latter, they are averred, if necessary under specific heads of claim, presumed in law to be the direct and natural consequence of the act complained of and awarded at large as a jury question.

— Uwaifo, JSC. Rockonoh v. NTP (2001) – SC.71/1995

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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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THE CONCEPT OF GENERAL DAMAGES & SPECIAL DAMAGES

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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APPELLATE COURT WILL NOT DISTURB DAMAGES OF LOWER COURT SIMPLY BECAUSE IT WOULD HAVE AWARDED A DIFFERENT FIGURE

Although an appellate Court admittedly can disturb an award of damages if such award is excessively high or unreasonably low, it is settled that a Court of Appeal will not disturb an award of damages made by the lower Court merely because it would have come to a different figure if it had heard the case itself. See Per NNAMANI, JSC in DUYILE & ANOR V. KELLY OGUNBAYO & SONS LTD (1988) LPELR-975(SC) (P. 17, PARAS. D-G).

— U.M. Abba Aji, JSC. Cappa v NDIC (2021) – SC.147/2006

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