Statutory Damages in Breach of Contract Cases

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What are Statutory Damages?

Statutory Damages are damages that are required by and contained in a state's statutory law.  Unlike actual damages, the person alleging an injury does not have to prove that they are entitled to a certain amount of damages, but only that the other party has violated the law.  Statutory damages may be awarded anytime there has been such a violation. 

Statutory Damages vs. Actual Damages:

Actual, or compensatory, damages are intended to restore the injured party to their original condition, at least financially.  In an action for breach of contract, these generally include any calculable expenses incurred by the non-breaching party as a result of the breach.  Statutory damages, however, are set by law and do not have to be calculated precisely and proven to the court.

When Are Statutory Damages Usually Awarded?

Statutory damages are often awarded in cases of breach of contract or copyright infringement.  They are also awarded for certain actions that the state has determined to violate public policy.

An example of this is where state law dictates that a landlord who fails, without good reason, to return a security deposit in a timely fashion or at all can be required to pay the tenant two or three times the actual deposit amount in statutory damages. 

Why Are Statutory Damages Important?

Statutory damages can be particularly important in lawsuits for breach of contract because the judge will often only award to the plaintiff those damages that were contemplated by the parties at the time the agreement was made.

Statutory Damages allow the plaintiff to recover a substantial amount of damages even when the actual monetary loss that they have suffered is quite small, or where it is very difficult to prove exactly how much money they are entitled to or which damages might have been foreseen by the parties

Judges may also elect to award statutory damages where they believe that the defendant's actions warrant a greater punishment than they would get if they only had to pay actual damages. 

Can I Recover Statutory Damages in My Breach of Contract Case?

If you wish to sue someone for for breaching a contract that you have entered in to, an experienced business attorney will be able to help you prove that the other party breached and assist you in recovering the damages that you deserve.

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Last Modified: 12-19-2013 10:52 AM PST

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