Intentional torts like assault and outrage (a.k.a. infliction of emotional distress), or for that matter, dignitary torts (e.g., invasion of privacy, or alienation of affection) don't have readily measurable damages. (Except perhaps what a defendant can contrive as the costs of therapy and medication to address the psychological damage inflicted.)

Are there any broad conventions or theories on how damages should be assessed for such torts? Do precedents weigh heavily, or do damages awarded always come down to what a jury can be convinced is appropriate? Or, if brought in small-claims court (as would be more likely except for the most wealthy or sympathetic plaintiffs), do any jurisdictions have guidelines or precedents that apply?

(How are emotional distress damages quantified? turned up a report on how that particular tort was been compensated in various contexts. I'm interested in whether there is any broad custom or case law that applies across jurisdictions, or if any jurisdiction has more clear guidelines for assessing damages.)

  • 1. Case law. That report you cite contains a chunk of case law. By state. (I don't think it's limited to California). 2. To apply across jurisdictions, you'll need either a federal case or a SCOTUS ruling. If it's a federal case, it would need to apply to a federal statute (e.g., anti-descrimination). Most of the torts you describe are governed by state law. So, answering this question might be challenging for those reasons. – Mowzer May 27 '16 at 19:03
  • @Mowzer - Good point, but I don't see anything in that report that claims those awards are precedential. I thought they were just provided as illustrations. Are you saying that state law may address how damages can/should be calculated for these torts? Can you provide an example? I was assuming that since these are generally common-law instead of statutory torts that there would either be a convention or maybe some "model code" that is widely used or referenced (if anything). – feetwet May 27 '16 at 21:23

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