Damnum Sine Injuria And Injuria Sine Damnum

Damnum Sine Injuria And Injuria Sine Damnum

Author: Monazza Sajid, Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA

  1. What do you mean by Damnum Sine Injuria?

According to Merriam-Webster, Damnum Sine Injuria refers to any loss to which no legal remedy has been provided. “Damnum Sine Injuria is a legal maxim which states no action will lie if there is actual loss or damage but there has been no infringement of one’s legal right. When an infringement of legal rights has not taken place, then mere substantial loss or damage to a person’s body or property will not make the person liable for any tort. Damnum Sine Injuria is one of the three rules that are used to determine the liability of a person.”

To understand this rule better, following are the examples where Damnum Sine Injuria can be applied:

  • Competition in Trade:

Incurring loss because of trade is no ground for a person to be liable for causing damage to the claimant. Any loss or damage incurred by a claimant will not render a party liable as no legal right of the claimant has been infringed. For example, if there are two schools in a locality, and one of the two schools reduces its fee structure by half to attract more students, then the other school would incur losses as more students would try to get admitted to the other school as it has lower fees. However, the school that has incurred losses would not have the right to bring legal action against the other school as it only suffered a pecuniary loss, and no legal damage was done to the school.

In the case, Mogul Steamship Co vs McGregor Gow and Co, [1]the plaintiff and the defendant were each other’s competitors in the same line of trade, the defendant formed an association to boycott the plaintiff from the trade that led the plaintiff to a substantial loss. Thus, he brought legal action against the defendant. The House of Lords held that the defendant would not be held liable for planning a civil conspiracy against the defendant to injure his trade as the defendant did not do any unlawful act and acted within his rights, hence no action could lie against the defendant.

  • When conduct is lawful:

No person would be liable for torts if his conduct is lawful and he causes injury to others by the lawful use of his property. However, if the use of the property leads to any other tortious acts such as nuisance, then the person would be liable for the tort.

In the case, Action v. Bundell[2], the defendant was carrying on the mining operations on his property in a lawful manner. And he ended up draining the water from the plaintiff’s land that was adjoining his land. The court held that the defendant was not liable as he was acting in well within his rights, in a lawful manner, as the defendant was in his complete right to use the water for his mining purposes. And it did not infringe the plaintiff’s legal rights.

  • What are the various case laws concerning Damnum Sine Injuria?

Following are the various case laws that concern the legal maxim, Damnum Sine Injuria:

  • Gloucester Grammar School Case[3]

Facts

In this case, the defendant was a schoolmaster who set up another school next to the plaintiff’s school due to some dispute that arose between the plaintiff and the defendant. And to attract more students, the defendant further went on to reduce the school’s fees which lead to a substantial loss to the plaintiff as a lot of students from plaintiff’s school transferred to the defendant’s school which led to a substantial loss to the plaintiff, and he brought an action against the defendant to claim compensation for the loss he had suffered due to defendant’s school.

Judgment

The court held that the defendant was not liable as he did not infringe on the legal rights of the plaintiff in setting up another school. Even though the plaintiff suffered monetary loss, the plaintiff cannot be led liable as there was no violation of legal rights. And for a person to be liable in the Law of Torts, it is important that one’s legal rights are violated or infringed.

  • Mayor & Co. of Bradford v. Pickles[4]

Facts

The corporation of Bradford was providing water to the individuals from its well, the defendant needed to offer his property to the enterprise; however, when he moved toward the mayor of the corporation for the equivalent, the arrangement fizzled and the company refused to purchase the property. The respondent’s land was adjacent to the organization’s land, and he burrowed a well on his property to divert the water supply to his property, consequently cutting the underground water supply of the corporation’s well. This led to a huge loss to the corporation, and it brought a suit against the defendant.

Judgment

The court held that the defendant was not liable as for a person to be held liable for a tortious act, it must be proved that the plaintiff’s legal rights were violated, however, no legal rights were compromised of the plaintiff, and thus the defendant was not liable. The mere presence of malice does not offer any ground to legal actions, hence the defendant was acquitted.

  • What do you mean by Injuria Sine Damnum?

“According to Merriam-Webster, Injuria Sine Damnum refers to damage or infringement of one’s legal rights without causing any actual or monetary loss. Every person has inherited some legal rights, and they have the right to enjoy these rights. If these rights have been infringed, one can bring actions against the wrong-doer. Here, the defendant would be held liable even if his actions did not prove to cause the plaintiff any monetary or pecuniary loss because he compromised the legal rights of the plaintiff, and causing legal damage is actionable in the Law of torts. The claimant would be entitled to recover damages without having to prove the actual loss suffered. The torts to which this rule applies are actionable per se, which means that the claimant only needs to prove that the act was committed, and the burden of proof does not lie on him.”

To understand this rule better, following are the examples where Damnum Sine Injuria can be applied:

  • Defamation:

“Defamation is a tortious act of damaging one’s reputation; it is making false statements about a particular person which could damage that person’s or business’ reputation. Defamation comprises Slander and Libel. Libel is a written defamatory statement made against a person or business, and Slander is when derogatory statements are spoken by the defendant. Libel is actionable per se which means that the claimant does not have the burden of proof upon him to prove that the act was committed”

  • Trespass to land:

Entering someone’s property without a lawful excuse refers to trespass to land. It is actionable per se, and the defendant would be liable for the commission of this tort even if it did not cause any monetary or pecuniary loss to the claimant as his legal right to property was compromised.

  • What are the various case laws concerning Injuria Sine Damnum?
  • Ashby v. White[5]

Facts

In this case, the claimant was a qualified voter who was prevented from casting his vote by the defendant. The claimant was wrongfully restraint and the defendant refused to take the plaintiff’s vote. The plaintiff brought an action against the defendant.

However, the plaintiff suffered no actual damages as the candidate for whom he wanted to vote won the election.

Judgment

The House of Lords held that even though the plaintiff did not suffer actual loss as the candidate whom he wanted to vote for won the elections, the defendant would be held liable as the plaintiff had the legal right to cast his vote but his legal right was infringed and compromised by the defendant. Hence, the defendant was held liable.

  • Marzetti v. Williams[6]

Facts

In this case, the plaintiff held an account if the defendant’s bank. When the plaintiff tried to withdraw money from the bank via self cheque, he was refused to do so by the defendant’s bank without any reasoning, even though there was a sufficient amount of money in the claimant’s bank. The plaintiff filed a suit against the banker who refused to honor his cheque.

Judgment

It was held in the court that even though the defendant did not incur any substantial loss or damage, he was denied his legal right of withdrawing money from his bank account. Hence, the defendant was held liable and was made to pay compensation to the defendant for refusing to allow the plaintiff to withdraw his money.

  • What are the differences between Damnum Sine Injuria and Injuria Sine Damnum?

Following is the comparison between the Damnum Sine Injuria and Injuria Sine Damnum:

Damnum Sine Injuria Injuria Sine Damnum
Damnum Sine Injuria is a rule which refers to the damages suffered by the claimant without any infringement of his legal rights. Injuria Sine Damnum is a rule which refers to the legal damage caused to the plaintiff by the defendant without having to incur any monetary or actual loss.
There is no cause of action as no legal rights have been compromised. In this rule, even though no actual losses are incurred, there exists a cause of action as legal rights are violated.  
There exists no compensation in the form of damages. Compensation is awarded by the court in the form of damages.    
The principle behind this maxim is that it allows a person to act within his reasonable limits that are lawful in nature even though cause damages to others. The principle behind this maxim is that it refuses to let anyone get away with infringing someone’s legal rights even though he has not caused any substantial or actual loss to the person.
  • Conclusion

The conclusions of the two maxims are that these are used as rules to determine a person’s liability in the law of torts. One is a moral wrong for which there is no legal remedy available as it allows the people to act in a reasonable manner that is not unlawful in nature even though it causes damages to others. Its main aim is to provide no ground for actions for acts that are not violative of anyone’s rights.

And the other maxim allows a person to seek legal remedies for his infringement of legal rights even though there has been no actual loss incurred by the person. Its main aim is to provide grounds for legal actions against the person who has violated one’s legal rights.”


[1]Mogul Steamship Co vs McGregor Gow and Co (1892) AC 25

[2]Acton v. Bundell (1843)12 M & W 324

[3] Gloucester Grammar School Case (1410) Y.B. Hill 11 Hen, 4 of 47,

P.21, 36

[4] Mayor & Co. of Bradford v. Pickles (1895) AC 587

[5]Ashby v. White

Case Citation:       

2.Ld.Raym. 938 OR 92 Eng.Rep. 126; 1 Brown P.C. 62 OR 1 Eng.Rep. 417

[6]Marzetti v. Williams (1830) 1 B & Ad 415

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