It is not a new proposition, but it is often glossed over by defendants, just like the thoroughly orthodox proposition that legal causation does not require that a wrong be the sole, predominant, or proximate cause of the damage. The proposition is that where the court is satisfied that a wrong has caused actual loss of some sort, difficulties in working out what the value of the loss is in money terms cannot defeat the remedy of damages. The judge must do the best he or she can, even if the evidence is sparse and unsatisfactory.
In a rather wonderful case about the negligent destruction by an RSPCA officer of a herd of cattle which went for 12 years and 68 days of trial, the Court of Appeal has pithily restated the proposition in reasons for dismissing RSPCA’s application for leave to appeal. The judgment is RSPCA (Victoria) v Holdsworth  VSCA 243. Subject to further appeal, it looks like the RSPCA or its insurer will have to cough up the judgment of more than one million dollars. Costs don’t bear thinking about.
The relevant part of the proposed appeal was from a finding of Judge Bowman that had the RSPCA not slaughtered the animals, their owners would have set up a business of selling the bulls’ semen and made a profit from it. The RSPCA said this was ‘pie in the sky’ and there was no credible evidence that this was in fact the plan or that it could have succeeded. Certainly, no attempt had been made to set up the business before the RSPA’s lethal destruction of the unarmed furry animals.
The Chief Justice and Justices of Appeal Hansen and Beach said: Continue reading “Courts must do the best they can to quantify loss even where the evidence is less than ideal”