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exemplary damages


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Damages given to punish the defendant rather than (or as well as) to compensate the claimant for harm done. Such damages are exceptional in tort, since the general rule is that damages are given only to compensate for loss caused. They can be awarded in some tort actions: (1) when expressly authorized by statute; (2) to punish oppressive, arbitrary, or unconstitutional acts by government servants; (3) when the defendant has deliberately calculated that the profits to be made out of committing a tort (e.g. by publishing a defamatory book) may exceed the damages at risk. In such cases, exemplary damages are given to prove that “tort does not pay” (Rookes v Barnard [1964] AC 1129). Exemplary damages cannot be given for breach of contract.

Subjects: Law.


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