Meaning: Damage without injury.
The Latin phrase ‘damnum sine injuria’ means the causation of damage without the violation of a legal right. It means that even if there is an actual injury or damage suffered by the plaintiff, there is no legal injury, i.e., violation of a legal right.
The maxim damnum sine injuria is applied in cases where there is no legal injury, even if an actual injury has occurred.
The law does not recognizes an injury without the infringement of a legal right. Even if the injury is caused by an act, which is committed by the defendant, it does not by itself make him liable for it. The court cannot make him liable for an injury, which does not exist in the eyes of the law. In order for a legal action to commence, an act, which causes the violation of a legal right, is required by the law. Acts that are otherwise wrongful, but are legally excusable or lawfully justifiable also fall under these kinds of cases.
An act in itself lawful will not be rendered unlawful merely because it was ill-motivated. Thus, an act, which is not illegal or wrongful, cannot be made the basis of an action merely because it is done with bad motive or ill will. Malice by itself may not be cause of action, if there is no violation of any valid right. Malice may, however, be an element to be considered in fixing amount of compensation for the injury resulting from infringement of legal right. It is only where malice is a gist of action (as in the case of claim for damages for malicious prosecution), an innocent act is rendered wrongful by proving malice. Dr. Mohammad Gulam Nabi Khan vs Dr. Mohfooz Ali1)
In the case of Gloucester Grammar School2) the defendant opened a rival school to that of the plaintiff. Consequently, there developed a competition and the plaintiff had to reduce the fee of the students studying in his school from 40 pence to 12 pence. It was held that the plaintiff had no cause of action.
Hankford J. said—“Damnum may be abseque injuria, as if I have a mill and my neighbour builds another mill whereby the profit of my mill is diminished, I shall have no cause of against him, although I am damaged……………..but, if the miller disturbs the water from going to my mill, or does any nuisance of the like sort, I shall have such action as the law gives.”
In the case of Mogul Steamship Company vs McGregor Gow and Company3) some steamship company conspired against the plaintiff’s company, which used to carry tea by offering lesser rates than the plaintiff’s company and thus drove it out of the business. The court ruled that even though the plaintiff was financially injured and the injury was caused to him by the act of the defendant, the other companies had breached no right by exercising such competitive practices. They had not violated any right of the plaintiff, and so they were not the liable for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff.
Sunil Sharma is an advocate; editor and compiler of legal commentaries, having authored more than 40 books.