Generally a tort consists of some act done by a person which causes damage to another for which damages are claimed by the latter against the former. Damage here means injury or loss and damages means compensation claimed. The word injury is limited to an actionable wrong while damage means loss or harm occurring in fact, whether actionable as an injury or not.
Under the law of tort liability is fixed mainly based on the following two maxims:-
(1) Damnum sine injuria and
(2) Injuria sine damno
(1) Damnum sine injuria
The maxim ‘damnum sine injuria’ means damage without injury. It means that no action lies for mere damage caused by an act which does not infringe some legal rights of the plaintiff. There are many acts which are harmful. But all of them are not wrongful and give no right of action to the person who suffers their effects. Damage so caused and suffered is called damnum sine injuria i.e., damage without injury. So damnum sine injuria is not actionable. Damage without breach of a legal right will not constitute a tort. Some instances falling under this principle are given below.
a) Loss inflicted on individual traders by competition in trade. Dr. Winfield illustrates this by the following example:- I have a mill and my neighbour sets up another mill and thereby the profits of my mill fall off. But I cannot bring an action against him even though I had suffered damage.
b) Certain forms of harm done to a person’s neighbour in exercise of his right of property- A land owner is not liable to action for damages for digging a well on his land although the effect of it is to damage a neighbour by depriving him of percolating water.
c)The damage caused in certain cases by a man acting under a necessity to prevent a greater evil- When a house is under fire, if a man pulls down a nearby house to save other houses from fire, the act is justifiable and not actionable.
d) Damage caused by acts authorised by statutes when a person is arrested under a warrant of arrest he has no cause of action to claim damages.
The right of competition had been recognised by courts very early. In Gloucester Grammar School Master’s Case (1410) Y B II Hen IV. FO 47 PI 21, the defendant a school master set up a rival school to that of the plaintiffs. Because of competition, the plaintiff who ran a school there had to reduce their fees per scholar. It was held that the plaintiff had no remedy for the loss thus suffered by him. The damage suffered was held to be mere damnum absque injwria i.e., damage without injury.
In Mogul Steamship Company v. Me Gregor Gow and Company (1892) A.C. 25, 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.
In Town Area Committee v. Prabhu Dayal A.I.R. (1975) All 132, a suit for compensation was filed against the town area committee for the demolition of constructions protruding on the road. The court found that the plaintiff was guilty of constructing the building illegally without obtaining proper sanction from the town area committee. The High Court held that the demolition of an unauthorized building is not injuria to the owner and therefore despite the damage he might suffer he cannot get compensation.
(2) Injuria sine damno.
It literally means injury without damage/According to this principle an act is actionable in tort i.e. injuria even though it does not cause any damage to plaintiff.
In Ashby v. White (1703), the plaintiff was wrongfully prevented from exercising vote by the defendant, the returning officer in a parliamentary election. The candidate for whom the plaintiff wanted to give his vote had come out successful in the election. Still the plaintiff brought an action claiming damages against the defendant for maliciously preventing him from exercising his statutory right of voting in the election. The plaintiff was allowed damages even though he actually did not suffer any damage.
In Constanding v. Imperial London Hotel (1944) K.B.S 693, the plaintiff, a famous West Indian Cricketer, wished to stay in one of the hotels of the defendant. But the defendants refused wrongfully to receive him into the hotel to which he wished to go. But they provided him with lodgings in another hotel of the defendants. Here even though no damage was actually caused to the plaintiff the court held that he was entitled to claim damages.
Trespass or unauthorized entry on another person’s land is actionable even though the act of trespass has not caused substantial injury to the owner of the land. Here there is an infringement of a legal right vested in the landlord.
The cases of injuria sine damno fall into the category of tort where the defendants are held liable for the infringement of legal rights vested in the plaintiff although the particular actions of the defendants might not have caused any substantial loss to the plaintiffs.
Reference – Law of Torts by Dr.R.K.Bangia.
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