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Damages

act, loss, law, wrong, compensation, public and word

DAMAGES, for which the Law Latin uses the word Damns, signifies a com pensation iu money which a man gets by the verdict of a jury for some wrong that he has sustained. The damages is any action in which compensation for wrong may be got are assessed by a jury, and when judgment is given, the plaintiff is entitled to get these damages from the defendant The plural word "damages" in this sense appears to be a technical use of the word "damage," damnum in the Law Latin, which means the loss that one man sustains by the act of another. The loss may be either a loss that affects his property or it may arise from an act which affects only his person, as assault, and imprisonment. There is a legal maxim that a man cannot recover dam ages when there is a "damnum aNque injuria," a loss without an injury, that is, when one person sustains a loss by the act of another, but the act is not an ille gal act. The word " injury" is here used in the proper sense of the Latin word " injuria," from which it comes : "injuria" signifies that which is "non jure firctum," or done contrary to law. Dam ages then may be got when the act which causes the damage is an " injury" or "legal wrong," but not otherwise, how ever great may be the loss caused by the act of another. If one comes and sets up a shop by the side of another and takes away all his custom, he has caused him loss enough, but the sufferer can have no compensation, for it is legal for a man to set up a shop, even if he thereby ruins all other shopkeepers.

The kind of acts which are considered injuries is fixed by law ; but sometimes cases arise in which it is difficult to de termine how far the act which causes loss is an act which is permitted, or should be permitted, for the administrators of the law sometimes determine what shall be law by an appeal to what should be.

The word "damnum," damage, is used in the Roman Law. There might be damnum sine injurift facientis," which was called Pauperies, a term which signi fied some damage caused by a quadruped, for which the owner was liable. The word "injuria" implied that the doer must be a rational agent ; and therefore in the ease of an animal, the mischief was said to be done without "injuria." When the loss or damage was caused by the act of a human being, it was "damnum in juria." (Dig. 9, fit. I and 2.)

A man may receive great loss from the wrongful act ofer, and have no compensation by the law Of England. He may have damages for loss to his property caused by an illegal act; and he may have compensation in some cases for damage to his body caused by the wrong ful act of another. But as wrongs in the English law are distributed into private and public, and private wrongs are called civil injuries, and public wrongs are called crimes and misdemeanors, so there is a private, that is, an individual com pensation in case of a private wrong, and a publie compensation (if we may use tha term) in the case of a public wrong. A man cannot recover compensation in re spect of being robbed, for robbery is a public wrong, and the punishment that is inflicted is not inflicted with a view to compensate the injured person. A man may recover compensation if he is beaten by another, when the case is an as sault; but if he should be half killed by a man who intended to kill him outright, this is a public wrong, and the sufferer gets no pprivate compensation. Thus, says Blackstone, " Robbery is an injury to private property, but were that all, a civil satisfaction in damages might atone for it: the public mischief is the thing for the prevention of which our laws make it a capital offence. In these gross and atrocious injuries the private wrong is swallowed up in the public : we seldom hear of any mention made of satisfaction to the individual ; the satisfaction to the community being so very great." It seems that the amount of satisfaction to the community, that is, to all the mem bers of the state, is so great that the in dividual who sustains the loss may be well satisfied to go without anything ex cept his share of the public satisfaction.

The extension of the principle of re• covering damages, that is, pecuniary com pensation, to other cases than those in which they may now be had, is a sub ject that deserves the attention of legal reformers.

Blackstone (iv. c. 1) has stated generally the cases in which a man may get dam ages and may not: but, as usual, he is not satisfied with stating the law ; he will give a foolish and insufficient reason to show that it is good.