Injuria Sine Damnum means infringement or violation of a legal private right of a person even if there is no actual loss or damage.
Injuria Sine Damnum
This maxim Injuria Sine Damnum means infringement or violation of a legal private right of a person even if there is no actual loss or damage. In such a case the person whose right is infringed has a good cause of action. It is not necessary for him to prove any special damage. The infringement of private right is actionable per se. What is required to show is the violation of a right in which case the law will presume damage. Thus, in cases of assault, battery, false imprisonment, libel etc., the mere wrongful act is actionable without proof of special damage. The Court is bound to award to the plaintiff at least nominal damages if no actual damage is proved.
Thus, this maxim provides for,
- Infringement of a legal right of a person.
- No actual loss or damage is required to prove.
- Infringement of a private right is actionable per se.
In Ashby V. White, the plaintiff was a qualified voter at a Parliamentary election, but defendant, a returning officer, wrongfully refused to take plaintiffs vote. No loss was suffered by such refusal because the candidate for whom he wanted to vote won the election. Plaintiff succeeded in his action. Lord Holt, C.J., observed as follows, “If the plaintiff has a right he must of necessity have a means to vindicate and maintain it, and a remedy if he is injured in the exercise or enjoyment of it, and indeed it is a vain thing to imagine a right without a remedy, for want of right and want of remedy are reciprocal”. “Every injury imports a damage, though it does not cost a party one penny and it is impossible to prove the contrary, for the damage is not merely pecuniary, but an injury imports a damage, when a man is thereby hindered of his right. As in an action for slanderous words, though a man does not lose a penny by reason of the speaking of them, yet he shall have an action. So, if a man gives another a cuff on his car, though it costs him nothing, not so much as a little diachylon (plaster), yet he shall have his action. So, a man shall have an action against another for riding over his ground, though it does him no damage, for it is an invasion of the property and the other has no right to come there.”
In Municipal Board of Agra V Asharfi Lal, the facts are, the Plaintiff (Asharfi Lal) was entitled to be entered as an elector upon the electoral roll. His name was wrongfully omitted from the electoral roll and he was deprived of his right to vote. It was held by the court that if any duly qualified citizen or person entitled to be on the electoral roll of an constituency is omitted from such roll so as to be deprived of his right to vote, he has suffered a legal wrong, he has been deprived of a right recognised by law and he has against the person so depriving him, a remedy, that is, an action lies against a person depriving I him of his right.
Similarly, in Bhim Singh V. State of J&K, the petitioner, an M.L.A. of Jammu & Kashmir Assembly, was wrongfully detained by the police while he was going to attend the Assembly session. Thus, he was deprived of his fundamental right to personal liberty and constitutional right to attend the Assembly session. The court awarded exemplary damages of Rs. Fifty thousand by way of consequential relief.An action will lie against a banker, having sufficient funds in his hands belonging to the customer, for refusing to honour his cheque, although the customer has not thereby sustained any actual loss or damage, Marzetti V. Williams Bank
Damnum sine injuria
Damnum sine injuria means an actual and substantial loss without infringement of any legal right. In such a case no action lies. There are many harms of which loss takes no account and mere loss of money’s worth does not by itself constitute a legal damage. The essential requirement is the violation of a legal right.
There are many forms of harm of which the law takes no account,
- Loss inflicted on individual traders by competition in trade,
- Where the damage is done by a man acting under necessity to prevent a greater evil,
- Damage caused by defamatory statements made on a privileged occasion,
- Where the harm is too trivial, too indefinite or too difficult of proof,
- Where the harm done may be of such a nature that a criminal prosecution is more appropriate for example, in case of public nuisance or causing of death,
- There is no right of action for damages for contempt of court.
Damnum sine injuria Case law
In Gloucester Grammer School Case, The defendant, a schoolmaster, set up a rival school to that of the plaintiff. Because of the competition, the plaintiff had to reduce their fees. Held, the plaintiff had no remedy for the loss suffered by them.
Hanker J. said “Damnum may be absque injuria as if I have a mill and my neighbour builds another mill whereby the profits of my mill is diminished… but if a miller disturbs the water from going to my mill, or does any nuisance of the like sort, I shall have such action as the law gives.”
Chesmore V. Richards, The plaintiff, a mill owner was using water for over 60 years from a stream which was chiefly supplied by the percolating underground water. The defendants dug a well on their land deep enough to stop the larger volume of water going to plaintiff’s stream. Held, that the plaintiff has no right of action since it was a case of damnum sine injuria.
Bradford Corporation V. Pickles, In this case, the defendant was annoyed when Bradford Corporation refused to purchase his land in connection with the scheme of water supply for the inhabitants of the town. In the revenge the defendant sank a shaft over his land intentionally and intercepted the underground water which was flowing to the reservoir of the plaintiffs. Held that the plaintiffs have no cause since the defendant was exercising his lawful right although the motive was to coerce the plaintiff to buy his land. The House of Lords approved the ruling in Chesmore V. Richards.
Moghul Steamship Company V. McGregor Gow &Co, A number of steamship companies acting in combination agreed to regulate the cargoes and freight charges between China and Europe. A general rebate of 5 per cent was allowed to all suppliers who shipped with the members of the combination. As a result of this action, the plaintiffs had to bring down their rates to that level which was un remunerative to them. ‘Held, that there was no cause of action as the defendants had acted with lawful means to increase their trade and profits. No legal injury was caused and the case fell within the maxim damnum sine injuria.
Dickson V. Renter’s Telegraph Company, ‘A’ sent a telegram to ‘B’ for the shipment of certain goods. The telegraph company mistaking the registered address of ‘C’ for that of ‘B’, delivered the telegram to ‘C’. ‘C’, acting on the telegram sent the goods to ‘A’ who refused to accept the goods stating that he had ordered the goods not from ‘C’ but from ‘B’. ‘C’ sued the Telegraph Company for damages for the loss suffered by him. Held, that ‘C’ had no cause of action against the company for the company did not owe any duty of care to ‘C’ and no legal rights to ‘C’ could, therefore, be said to have been infringed.
Rogers V. Rajendera Dutt, The plaintiff owned a tug which was employed for towing the ships in charge of Government Pilots in Hoogly. The plaintiff demanded exorbitant price for towing the ship. Consequently, the Superintendent of Marine issued an order prohibiting the use of that tug in future whereby the owner was deprived of the profits. Held, that they had no legal right to have their tug employed by the Government.
Town Area Committee V. Prabhu Dayal, A legal act, though motivated by malice, will not make the defendant liable. The plaintiff can get compensation only if he proves to have suffered injury because of an illegal act of the defendant. The plaintiff constructed 16 shops on the old foundations of a building, without giving a notice of intention to erect a building under section 178 of the Uttar. Pradesh Municipalities Act and without obtaining necessary sanction required under section 108 of that Act. The defendants (Town Area Committee) demolished this construction. In an action against the defendant to claim compensation for the demolition the plaintiff alleged that the action of the defendants was illegal as it was malifide, the municipal commissioner being an enemy of his. It was held that the defendants were not liable as no “injuria” (violation of a legal right) could be proved because if a person constructs a building illegally, the demolition of such building by the municipal authorities would not amount to causing “injuria” to the owner of the property.
In Action V. Blundell, the defendants by digging a coal pit 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 dug therein and apply all that is there found to his own purposes, at his free will and pleasure, and that 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 sine injuria which cannot become the ground of action.”
Distinction between Injuria sine damnum and Damnum sine injuria
First on the basis of meaning, Injuria sine damunm means violation of a legal right without actual loss or damages where as Damnum sine injuria means actual or substantial Damages without infringement of a legal right.
Second on the basis of action, Injuria sine damunm is always actionable where as Damnum sine injuria is never actionable.
Third on the basis of nature of wrong, Injuria sine damunm contemplates legal wrongs where there is a remedy where as Damnum sine injuria contemplates only moral wrongs without any remedy.
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[…] However, Law of torts does not hold the defendant liable for any loss that may be caused to the plaintiff on account of defendant’s act. The loss must be caused due to breach of some legal duty on the part of the defendant towards the plaintiff (damnum sine injuria and injuria sine damnum). […]