The Importance of Damages in Litigation

To make the prosecution of any civil case worthwhile, there has to be sufficient damages to justify the time and expense of litigation. Very often we receive questions which, based on how the factual circumstances are presented, suggest that liability exists, but the damages complained of do not warrant the filing of a case.
For instance, under Missouri law, a trespass to land occurs when there is an unauthorized entry by a person upon land of another. If I simply walk across my neighbor’s backyard without his consent, this is a trespass so long as there was no consent. However, because nothing more than nominal damages occurred, it certainly is not worthwhile to pursue.The same principle applies to breach of contract cases. If the breach is minor and resulted in minimal financial harm, is it worth litigation?
In cases involving negligence, moreover, damages are an actual element of the claim. The elements of negligence are: (1) the existence of a duty on the part of the defendant to protect the plaintiff from injury;  (2) failure of the defendant to perform that duty, and (3) injury to the plaintiff resulting from such failure. No damages, no case.
This practical reality is something which must be closely considered in all types of cases. For those cases which fall in between insufficient damages and sufficient damages, a small claim or associate circuit claim may be appropriate.
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