If a contract between two parties existed, and one party breached it, when must the other party show damages to have the breach remedied? The following examples comes from this question where people in a meeting were told they can't take notes.

Assume that there was a signed contract where the people attending the meeting agreed not to take notes. If someone was caught taking notes but no one suffered any damages because of it, could there still be legal action (such as getting sued)? Must damages be shown to relate directly to the breach and not anything else, for example if someone took notes in the meeting then disclosed something that was intended to be kept confidential, would a defense be that what they had repeated that had memorized and had nothing to do with notes or could they still be sued for taking notes?

It's illegal not to wear a seat belt even if you don't get into a crash, so I'm guessing the answer to my question is not always.

  • "It's illegal not to wear a seat belt even if you don't get into a crash, so I'm guessing the answer to my question is not always." In many U.S. jurisdictions, failure to wear a seatbelt is a traffic offense for which you can be pulled over and fined.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 14, 2022 at 19:55
  • is not taking notes in the contract or in the meeting to sign the contract?
    – Tiger Guy
    Apr 15, 2022 at 14:49

3 Answers 3


In the United States there is a split of authority on this question.

The majority rule is that a common law claim for breach of contract requires proof only of the existence of a contract and its breach, and that a showing of damages is not required. Under that rule, if a party breaches a contract you are entitled to nominal damages (i.e. $1) even if you don't make any showing of economic harm, and you are entitled to the other incidents of being a prevailing party (e.g. litigation costs as a prevailing party, and a determination that the other party breached the contract which may be relevant in future litigation or litigation with other parties).

The minority rule is that a common law claim for breach of contract also requires a showing that you suffered some economic damages. So, if you show that there was a breach of a contract, but do not show economic damages, then the other side is the prevailing party in the case.


A suit doesn’t have to be about damages

You can sue for an injunction, a court order requiring some one to do or stop doing something. For your example, an order requiring the notes to be delivered to the plaintiff and all copies destroyed seems appropriate.


Normally, to sue and collect damages (beyond nominal damages) one must be able to show harm resulting from the tort or breach o contract. In some cases, where harm is hard to measure, a contract may have a liquidated damages provision, in whch the amount of damages for certain specific violations of the contract is fixed in advance. But that must normally be a reasonable attempt to estimate the actual value of hard-to-measure harm. Otherwise that will be a penalty provision, which is not lawful adn will not be enforced. Courts tend to looks somewhat skeptically at "liquidated damages" provisions, in case they are really penalty provisions.

Also, the harm must usually be a direct result of the violation, that is the harm would not have occurred had the violation not occurred. Harm must usually be actual, not speculative.

You must log in to answer this question.

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