Journal of European Tort Law
Editor-in-Chief: Oliphant, Ken
Ed. by Karner, Ernst / Koch, Bernhard A. / Wendehorst, Christiane
3 Issues per year
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.