23. What are “compensatory damages”?
Tort plaintiffs may generally recover compensatory damages for injuries or losses suffered as a result of the tortious conduct. As the name implies, these damages are used to compensate the plaintiff for an injury suffered and to make the plaintiff whole again. Compensatory damages may include financial loss, pain and suffering, decreased life expectancy, loss of enjoyment, and loss of life or limb. Calculation of damage awards are made by the jury.
• Note: Juries may employ life expectancy tables and present value discounts in arriving at a damages award.
• Discussion: Do you have any opinions on how compensatory damages should be calculated? Should any factors other than the harm suffered by the plaintiff be considered? Do you think the award of compensatory damages is always fair? Why or why not? Should there be cap on damages? Why or why not?
• Practice Question: Arthur gets into an automobile accident. He suffers some bruising and a broken ankle. He also has to take leave from work for several months until his ankle fully heals. The doctors are concerned that Arthur could suffer long-term pain and arthritis in the ankle. He sues the other driver for negligence and wins. What do you think the jury will consider in awarding compensatory damages to Arthur?