Tuesday, May 28, 2024





Explain the legal maxim ‘damnum sine injuria’.

Damnum refers to damage in terms of money, comfort, and health. Injuria refers to a violation of legal rights. Injury, on the other hand, refers to harm that is not caused by a violation of a legal right. Therefore, damage that is not so great as to cause great harm is not actionable under torts law. Simply losing money or property will not cause any damage.

There are many acts that are so harmful that they do not constitute a wrongful act and do not give any right of action to the person who suffers their consequences. Such damage is known as damage sin injuria, or damage without injury. In the law of tort, a wrongful act is one by which a person’s legal rights are violated. If a person harms another person by the exercise of their legal rights, then no action can be taken against him.

For example, if I am running a mill at a particular place and any neighbour also establish another mill in the same place which reduces my income then I cannot file a case for compensation against him although it causes monetary harm to him. But if he obstructs the flow of water to my mill then I will have right to take action against him as it violates my legal right. Every person has a right to carry on his trade or profession in competition with others even though this competition may cause loss to his rival.

According to this maxim, ‘damage’ does not form the basis of an action unless it is the consequence of an infringement of a legitimate right of the claimant. Sir Federic pollock stated that- Men do a great number of things which cause some distress or harm to others, or which are likely to cause some distress or inconvenience to others, but without doing these things, it is impossible for them to carry on their normal activities in society, so that there can be no complaint of such harm or inconvenience.

“A person who merely exercises his or her own rights, as is the case of lasses imposed by a trade competition on individual traders; or A person in the case of the defendant exercising his/her rights of ownership; or Where damage is caused by a man acting in excess of what is required to prevent further damage;”

It means damage which is not coupled with an unauthorized interference with the plaintiff’s lawful right. Causing of damage, however substantial, to another person is not actionable in law unless there is also violation of a legal right of the plaintiff. .

This is generally so when the exercise of legal right by one result in consequential harm to the other. The mere fact that a man is injured by another’s act gives in itself no cause of action; if the act is deliberate, the party injured will have no claim in law even though the injury is intentional, so long as the other party is exercising a legal right.

The harm complained about may be too indefinite or too trivial to provide evidence to be recognized effectively. Therefore, with no action, it appears that damage will be recovered for just physical harm without any accompaniment. However, caused by a deliberate act or by the defendant’s negligence.

Likewise, damages may be of a legal nature. No right to pecuniary compensation could be granted to the injured party but provided for. Certain other remedies, such as criminal prosecution, if applicable. This is the case, for example, Damage suffered by an individual common with the public due to the existence of a public nuisance.

Mere loss of money or property does not cause any damage’. There are many acts which though harmful are not wrongful and give no right of action to him who suffers their effects. Damage so suffered is called damage sine injuria–damage without injury.

In other words, damnum injuria is not actionable. In law of tort, wrongful acts are those by which legal rights of the plaintiff is violated. If some harm is caused to others by the exercise of legal rights of a person, then no action will lie against him.

For example, if I am running a mill at a particular place and any neighbour also establish another mill in the same place which reduces my income then I cannot file a case for compensation against him although it causes monetary harm to him. But if he obstructs the flow of water to my mill then I will have right to take action against him as it violates my legal right.

Case Law
Gloucester Grammar School (1410)
The respondent, in this case, was a former teacher at the plaintiff’s school who quit after a fistfight and opened a new school in the neighborhood nearby. Because of the teacher’s popularity, many students followed in his footsteps and enrolled at his rival school. As a consequence, the plaintiff suffered financial losses, and a suit for payment of compensation was filed in court. The issue before the aforementioned court here is whether the respondent could be held responsible under the doctrine of ‘Damnum sine Injuria.’

Furthermore, the respectable court ruled that no monetary compensation can be granted, even though the plaintiff had suffered compensatory damages, due to the lack of evidence of a violation of legal rights. Moreover, the respondent was within his basic legal rights to establish and maintain a school, & the act didn’t infringe the plaintiff’s rights. Economic losses incurred as a result of the respondent’s actions cannot be actually regarded as an encroachment of legal rights.

Mayor&Co of Bradford vs. Pickles (1895)
The Bradford Corporation was supplying water from its own well. Defendant (Pickles) held adjacent land to the area from which the Bradford Corporation was providing water & had dug a well. The respondent immediately informed the Bradford Corporation that he was interested in selling his property to them. To discuss the situation, he contacted the Mayor of the Bradford Corporation. However, the meeting was failed.

The Corporation of Bradford claimed that the defendant built a well on his own property, severing the corporation’s underground water supply. Because there was no appropriate supply of water to distribute to the people who resided under the Corporation’s control, the corporation suffered a financial loss.

Pickles was sued by the Corporation of Bradford for damages caused for malice. It was held that the defendant is not accountable since the defendant’s conduct was not unlawful because it did not infringe on the plaintiff’s legal rights (Corporation of Bradford). The act of the defendant or conduct was unneighbourly, but the court found no cause of action against him because he had not infringed on the plaintiff’s rights.

Dickson vs. Reuter’s Telegraph Company
This is another illustration where the defendants were held not liable even though their negligence had caused damage to the plaintiff. The defendant, a telegraph company, negligently delivered a telegram, meant for somebody else, to the plaintiffs. The telegram contained an order for the shipment of barley from Valparaiso to England.

The plaintiffs believed that the message was meant for them and shipped the goods which the sender of the telegram refused to accept. The plaintiffs having suffered a heavy loss sued the defendant company. It was held that the defendant company owed a contractual duty, only to the sender of the telegram. Since they did not owe any duty to the recipient of the telegram, they were not liable.

Vishnu Dutt Sharma vs. Board of High School (BHS) and Intermediate Education (IE) AIR 1981
The plaintiff in the case was a student who was unlawfully detained by the principal due to a misinterpretation of the regulatory requirements due to a lack of attendance. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit, claiming that he was entitled to damages because he had suffered serious a one-year loss. The court ruled that the plaintiff could not seek compensatory damages because a misinterpretation of rules & regulations doesn’t really constitute Tort.

Chesmore v. Richards
The plaintiff, a mill owner, was for the past 60years, using water for his mill from a stream which was fed by rainfall percolating through underground strata to the stream, but not flowing in defined channels. The defendants sunk a well on their land and pumped large quantities of water, which would otherwise have gone to the plaintiff’s stream, thereby causing loss to the plaintiff. For this, the defendants were held not liable.

Mogul Steamship Co. v. McGregor Gow and Co.
A number of steamship companies combined together and drove the plaintiff company out of the tea-carrying trade by offering reduced freight. The house of lords held that the plaintiff had no cause of action as the defendants had by lawful means acted to protect and extend their trade and increase their profits.

Ushaben v. Bhagyalaxmi Chitra Mandir
The plaintiffs sued for permanent injunction against the defendants to restrain them from exhibiting the film named “Jai Santoshi Maa”. It was contended that the film hurt the religious feelings of the plaintiff in so far as Goddesses Saraswati, Laxmi and Parvati were depicted as jealous and were ridiculed. It was observed that hurt to religious feelings had not been recognized as a legal wrong.

Moreover, no person has a legal right to enforce his religious views on another or to restrain another from doing a lawful act, merely because it did not fit in with the tenets of his particular religion. Since there was no violation of a legal right, request of injunction was rejected.

Action v. Blundell
The defendants by digging a coalpit intercepted the water which affected the plaintiff’s well, less than 20 years old, at a distance of about one mile. Held, they were not liable. It was observed: “the person who owns the surface, may dig therein and apply all that is there found to his own purposes, at his free will and pleasure, and that if in the exercise of such rights, he intercepts or drains off the water collected from underground springs in the neighbor’s well, this inconvenience to his neighbour falls within description damnum absque injuria which cannot become the ground of action.

Jethu Singh v. State of Rajasthan
The respondent applied for the grant of NOC to set up petrol pump near retail outlet of the petitioner. It was held that the setting up of the petrol pump would not be against the interest of general public. Rather, it would further the interest of general public. There being no violation of right to trade of the petitioner, the Rajasthan High Court held that as per the principle of “damnum sine injuria”, damage resulting to the petitioner therefrom, was not actionable.

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