To my understanding someone can only sue for damages when they can prove that someone (the defendant) caused the damages. Does this mean if someone is in breach of a contract, the other party needs to let damage happen before they can do anything about it?

One simple example would be how when renting a home the landlord shouldn't let themselves in without reason/notice. But if the landlord does this it is unlikely to cause damages so what remedies are available?

Another would be noise pollution. If your neighbor is making a lot of noise, can you do anything about it before you can prove it has caused some grievance like being late for work and getting fired due to lost sleep?

Another way to phrase the question is when can someone be sued when there are no damages?

  • 1
    You can also go to court to get an injunction to stop them doing it (whatever it is) in the future. Is that of interest? Mar 15, 2019 at 12:05
  • 1
    Mental stress and time taken to check your belongings are also damages with quantifiable financial impacts. If you have repeatedly lost sleep and hence been unable to enjoy your weekends then you can claim financial compensation. Mar 15, 2019 at 12:06
  • The fact that someone violates my privacy by entering my home is in itself damaging. I want to be able to sit on my sofa and do whatever I like (as long as it is legal) without anyone watching me. If I can't do that, it causes me damage.
    – gnasher729
    Mar 17, 2019 at 14:26

2 Answers 2


if someone is in breach of a contract, the other party needs to let damage happen before they can do anything about it?

No. The prospective plaintiff usually has a duty to make a reasonable effort to mitigate damages instead of letting them accumulate. In that case, the defendant would have to reimburse the expenses that mitigation caused, which would still be better than having to compensate for unmitigated losses.

Even if damages have not materialized, a party may seek declaratory relief whereby each parties' rights and duties are judicially determined for when a foreseeable or impending loss occurs.

Each state's legislation might provide remedies for scenarios such as "landlord's unannounced entry in a property", but otherwise the alleged/foreseeable damage shall be reasonably susceptible to compensation. Otherwise, it would be determined that the lawsuit has "no cause of action for which damages the plaintiff can recover".


Breach of a contract entitles the non-breaching party to at least nominal damages (e.g. $1 and court costs). If there is a fee shifting provision, nominal damages are sufficient win an award of attorneys' fees as well and some contracts have liquidated damages provisions setting a dollar amount on hard to value matters like delay in performing a contract.

Many torts (e.g. nuisance) can justify non-economic damages (e.g. for annoyance and disturbing your peaceful quiet). Other torts, such as battery or trespass, entitle a prevailing party to at least nominal damages. On the other hand, there are torts where neither non-economic damages nor nominal damages are usually allowed (e.g. claims for negligence causing only economic damage to an entity).

If a violation of a contract or other legal right is imminent and money damages is not an adequate remedy, some can ask that a court enter an injunction prohibiting that conduct and violation of that injunction is contempt of court punishable with fines and/or incarceration.

If there is a bona fide dispute over what a contract or other legal instrument or a law means, a declaratory judgment action can resolved the dispute even if not damage have yet been incurred (federal court declaratory judgment jurisdiction is narrower than in state courts due to the federal constitutional case or controversy requirement that applies to the federal judiciary).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .