Damnum Sine Injuria

Sai Manoj Reddy

The Maxim Damnum Sine Injuria means ‘that no action will lie if there is actual loss or damage but there has been no infringement of legal right”. Where there has been no infringement of any legal right, the mere fact of harm or loss will not render such act or omission actionable although the loss may be substantial or even irreparable.  Damage so done is called “damnum sine Injuria”.That is actual or substantial loss without infringement of any legal right and in such cases no action lies. Thus if I have a business and my neighbour sets up a similar business and thereby the profits of my business fall off, I can’t bring an action against him; and yet I have suffered damage. The loss in such cases is not caused by any wrong but by another’s exercise of his undoubted right. To explain this concept clearly the following instances along with case laws are helpful.

  1. Damage caused by lawful working of mine:

In the case of Westhoughton coal and cannel Co. v. wilgan coal corp, (1939) a land owner by working of his mines caused a subsidence of his surface, in consequence of which the rainfall was collected and passed by gravitation and percolation into the adjacent lower coal mine, it was held that the owner of the latter could sustain no action because the right to work a mine was a right to property, which duly exercised, begot no responsibility.

  1. Setting up rival school:

In the famous case of Gloucester Grammar school case, the defendant a schoolmaster set up a rival school next to the plaintiff’s and boys from the plaintiff’s school flocked to the defendant’s, it was held that no action could be maintained. Competition is no ground of action whatever damage it may cause, provided nobody’s legal rights are infringed.

  1. Driving the rival trader out of market:

In the case of Mogul steamship Co. v. Mc. Gregor, Gow & Co., (1892), the issue here is Mc. Gregor, Gow and some other shipping companies joined hteir hands together in the business to control the whole shipping business and to keep it in their hands by giving special offers to the customers which the Mogul steamship company is unable to give and a heavy loss occurred to this company due to the alliance of all others. Then the Mogul steamship co. sued on all others for the loss incurred to him and the court held that there is no legal right which was infringed by the defendants and the loss incurred in the competition is non actionable in the court of law.

  1. Obstruction to the view of shop:

In the case of Butt v. Imperial gas Co.,(1866), the plaintiff carried on his business in a shop which has a board to indicate the materials in which he dealt. The defendant by the virtue of the statutory powers erected a gasometer which obstructed the view of the plaintiff’s premises. In an action by the plaintiff to restrain by injunction the erection of the gasometer as it injured him by obstructing the view of his place of business, it was held that no injunction can be granted for the injury complained of.

  1. Ceasing to offer the food to idol:

In the case of Dhadphale v. gurav, (1881), the servants of a Hindu temple had right to get the food offered to the idol, but the person who was under an obligation to the idol to offer the food didn’t do so, and the servants bought a suit against him for damages, it was held that the defendant was under no legal obligation to supply the food to the temple’s servants, and though his omission to supply food to the idol might involve a loss to the plaintiffs, it was dmnum sine injuria, and couldn’t entitle the plaintiffs to maintain a suit.

The result of two maxims is that there are moral wrongs for which the law gives no legal remedy though they cause great loss or detriment; and on the other hand, there are legal wrongs for which the law does give a legal remedy, though there be only violation of a private right, without any actual loss or damage.