Alice repeatedly commits some tortious act against Bob (say, defamation, or copyright infringement, or breach of contract). Under the principle of mitigation, Bob must take reasonable action to minimize the amount of harm or loss he suffers. That is, once he becomes aware of Alice's tortious activity, he cannot simply allow it to continue with the intention of accumulating loss and suing her for a much greater amount in the future.

However, consider the situation in which Bob is not yet aware of Alice's tortious activity, but an uninvolved third party, Charles, does become aware of it. As I understand it, as a third party, Charles would generally have no legal obligation to minimize Bob's losses. But what if Charles intends to report Alice's activity to Bob in hopes of receiving a reward from Bob? (Note the wording "hopes" here; Charles would freely turn over his evidence to Bob without demanding anything in exchange.) Charles supposes that if Bob indeed offers a reward, then it will be proportional to Bob's losses. Can Charles delay reporting Alice's tortious activity with the expectation that she will repeat or continue it, thus causing Bob further loss, and thus increasing the expected value of the reward from Bob? If Charles does so delay his report, then does Bob (or indeed Alice, in the event Bob sues her) have a claim against Charles for the losses Bob incurred after Charles first became aware of Alice's tortious activity?

(This question arises from reports I have heard that certain law firms in Germany are proactively gathering evidence of serial copyright infringement and then presenting this evidence to the copyright holders in hopes that those copyright holders will retain the law firms to sue the infringers for damages. I don't know or care whether these reports are actually true, though I am interested in knowing about the legality of this general sort of scenario, for any sort of tort in any jurisdiction.)

1 Answer 1


Given that Bob has no obligation to pay anything to Charles, who has no legal duty to do anything, I don't see how Charles could have liability to Bob. If Charles wants to, he can decline to pay a reward to Bob or can pay an amount smaller than Charles hoped for as a reflection of Charles' delay.

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