International Encyclopedia of Public Policy and Administration - Vol. 2

By Jay M. Shafritz | Go to book overview


DAMAGES. The amount of money awarded in a lawsuit to compensate for losses or injuries sustained to the person, property, or legal rights through the unlawful actions of another. The primary goal of damages is to compensate a person for such injury, using monetary terms. Under the theory of the law of damages, a victim is entitled to a damage award that equates with the loss incurred, that is, to restore the victim to the position he or she would have had prior to sustaining the injury.

The major classifications include compensatory damages, exemplary damages, liquidated damages, and nominal damages.

Compensatory damages are awarded in accordance with the principles and limitations of just compensation. As such, compensatory damages are intended to equate with and to offset the amount of damage the injured person has suffered. The largest category of compensatory damages is general damages. These are also known as actual, direct, or necessary damages, which are those that flow as a direct and necessary consequence from the unlawful conduct of the party being sued. Another category is special damages. Special damages are actual, but not necessarily the result of the unlawful conduct. Special damages include such items as medical expenses or lost wages.

To illustrate the difference between general and special damages, take as an example a person injured in an automobile accident. The person who is injured, and making a claim for his injuries, necessarily has suffered at least some general damages, which would include pain and suffering. The injured person would not necessarily, however, have sustained medical expenses or loss of wages. Hence the latter damages are classified as "special," and the person making a claim for injuries must set forth specifically the kinds and amounts of special damages he claims.

Taken together, these damages-general and special -- are intended to compensate the victim for losses or injuries.

Another category of damages is exemplary or punitive damages. Such damages are intended to punish the wrongdoer and to deter similar conduct by others in the future. Such damages may be awarded in cases that involve intentional wrongdoing, such as fraud, willful and wanton negligence, or malice.

Actions for punitive damages have public policy implications. For example, where officials abuse their power outrageously -- as in police brutality cases -- punitive damages may be sought as a means of enforcing public policy against police misconduct. (See, for example, Allen, Helms, and King v. City of Los Angeles, 1995, Westlaw 433720, C. D. CA, the "Rodney King case.")

The law of contracts has the concept of liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are those amounts specified by the parties to the contract prior to the occurrence of a breach. By including a liquidated damage figure as a term of the contract, the parties agree that this figure approximates the injury that would be expected to occur should a breach ensue. In general, liquidated damage agreements are enforced, provided that the amount is not disproportionate to the damage that would actually result from the breach and provided that the agreement does not contradict other principles of law or public policy.

In contrast to monetary awards that provide compensation, nominal damage awards are available to establish a legal right. Nominal damages are utilized to substantiate the legal right and to remedy technical infringements of this right where actual damages have not occurred or cannot be proved. Nominal damages, where awarded, are often used in conjunction with punitive or exemplary damages.



25 Corpus Juris Secundum, Damages §§ 1-18, 37, 71, 101, 117- 120.

Black's Law Dictionary, 6th ed., p. 392.

DATA PROTECTION. Concerns the public policymaking and governance of access to information. The issues of privacy addressed involve individuals in various domains-worklife, the home, the Internet, and other venues. It is also known as "privacy protection" and "information privacy."

Data protection concerns the governance of access to information about identifiable persons in many domains. These include workplaces, the home, public service institutions, law enforcement, commercial establishments, and on the "information superhighway." Data protection, also known as privacy protection or information privacy, is of interest to public administration and public policy in two broad senses. First, because an indispensable part of the infrastructure of the modern state is the ability to make extensive and sophisticated use of information about individuals, but this is challenged by rights or claims to personal privacy that have implications for the operations of government. Second, because the perceived need for regulation of information practices and systems to which this conflict gives rise has spawned a search for administrative, social, and judicial controls and policies at several levels. However, the development of these controls flies in the face of dramatic increases in the capability of information technology to process personal data in the state as well as in commercial and other endeavors. Public policymaking for protecting personal privacy therefore is highly


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