Not Every "Wrong" Justifies A Lawsuit: The Element of Damages

In our often litigious society, people who want to "sue" sometimes focus solely on the fact that they have been "wronged." In doing so, they overlook a critical element: Whether they have suffered any "damages."

"Damages" refers to the harm, detriment or injury a person has suffered as a result of the acts (or failure to act) of another person. This injury can be to a person or to a person's property.

A perfect example is the potential client who calls complaining that he found a foreign object in his restaurant food prior to taking a bite. Has that person been wronged? Absolutely! There should not have been a foreign object in his food. Has that person been damaged? Absolutely not! Absent some actual injury from the presence of the foreign object, there is no claim against the restaurant. Further, there is no claim for "what could have happened" if he had chewed or swallowed the foreign object.

Even if some measure of damages have been suffered, they may be so minimal that litigation would not be economically feasible. A potential client called the other day wanting to file a lawsuit against a vending machine manufacturer. Apparently, her candy bar got stuck and didn't fall. After she was playfully advised that a $500 retainer would be required to try and recover her .75›, she dismissed the idea (but not before she asked whether we'd take the case on a contingency basis!).