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Journal of European Tort Law

Editor-in-Chief: Oliphant, Ken

Ed. by Karner, Ernst / Koch, Bernhard A. / Wendehorst, Christiane

3 Issues per year

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Damage in the English Law of Negligence*

Donal Nolan
Published Online: 2013-11-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jetl-2013-0018


Although foundational to the tort law of both common law and civil law countries, the concept of damage has been the object of surprisingly little analysis by academics in the common law world. The aim of this article is to redress the balance somewhat by looking more closely at the meaning of damage in the English law of negligence. The first part of the article consists of general observations on the damage concept. It is argued that it is impossible to devise a meaningful general definition of damage, that damage is not the same thing as loss, and that the damage concept is compatible with rights-based analysis of negligence law. The remainder of the article is devoted to consideration of the two most common forms of damage, personal injury and physical damage to property. It is argued that a central idea underpinning both these routine forms of damage is that of ‘impairment’ and that both forms of damage are subject to de minimis principles. As regards personal injury, particular attention is paid to the forms of psychiatric injury which ground a negligence claim. Finally, it is argued that for property to be damaged there must be a physical change in the property which impairs its utility or value, and that merely to incapacitate property is not to damage it. Although the primary focus is on English law (and the common law more generally), some comparative observations are made.

About the article

Donal Nolan

Published Online: 2013-11-01

Published in Print: 2013-11-01

Citation Information: Journal of European Tort Law, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 259–281, ISSN (Online) 1868-9620, ISSN (Print) 1868-9612, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jetl-2013-0018.

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© 2013 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston. Copyright Clearance Center

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