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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Understanding a Defendant's Duty to Mitigate Damages

In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff seeks to recover damages from the defendant for harm caused by the defendant's actions. However, to recover those damages, the plaintiff has a duty to mitigate them, which means taking reasonable steps to reduce the harm caused by the defendant's actions. This principle is known as the duty to mitigate damages and is an important aspect of civil law.

Duty to Mitigate Damages

The duty to mitigate damages requires the plaintiff to take reasonable steps to minimize the loss or harm caused by the defendant's actions. For example, suppose a plaintiff's car is damaged by the defendant's negligence. In that case, the plaintiff has a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate those damages, such as getting the car repaired as soon as possible to prevent further damage. If the plaintiff fails to do so, the defendant may argue that the plaintiff is responsible for any additional damages that could have been avoided.

The duty to mitigate damages requires the plaintiff to take reasonable steps to minimize the loss or harm caused by the defendant's actions.

The purpose of the duty to mitigate damages is to ensure that plaintiffs do not receive a windfall from a defendant's wrongful conduct. If the plaintiff fails to take reasonable steps to mitigate damages, it can be seen as an attempt to profit from the harm caused by the defendant, rather than to compensate for the actual harm suffered.


The duty to mitigate damages is also important because it can help to limit the damages that a defendant may be required to pay. If the plaintiff fails to mitigate damages, the defendant may argue that the damages should be reduced to reflect the amount that could have been avoided. This can be particularly important in cases where the plaintiff's failure to mitigate damages has resulted in additional harm or costs.


In some cases, the duty to mitigate damages may require the plaintiff to take steps that are inconvenient or even costly. For example, a plaintiff who has been wrongfully terminated may be required to make reasonable efforts to find a new job in order to mitigate the damages caused by the termination. However, the plaintiff is not required to take unreasonable or unduly burdensome steps to mitigate damages.


New Jersey-Specific Case Law

"It is well settled that injured parties have a duty to take reasonable steps to mitigate [their] damages." McDonald v. Mianecki, 79 N.J. 275, 299 (1979). "Damages will not be recovered to the extent that the injured party could have avoided his losses through reasonable efforts without undue risk, burden or humiliation." Ingraham v. Trowbridge Builders, 297 N.J.Super. 72, 82 (App. Div. 1997) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The burden of proving facts in mitigation of damages rest upon the defendant. Id. at 83. Sharkey v. Schultz, No. A-1672-20 (App. Div. July 25, 2022) (slip op. at 6)


Conclusion

In summary, the duty to mitigate damages is an important principle in civil law that requires plaintiffs to take reasonable steps to reduce the harm caused by a defendant's actions. It helps to ensure that plaintiffs are compensated for the actual harm suffered, rather than profiting from the defendant's wrongful conduct. Additionally, the duty to mitigate damages can help to limit the damages that a defendant may be required to pay.


Do you have questions about civil litigation or defending a lawsuit? If so, contact us Today at our Bergen County Office. Call Us at (201) 904-2211 or email Us at info@pjlesq.com

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If you would like more information about this post or if you want to discuss your legal matter with an attorney at the Law Offices of Peter J. Lamont, please contact me at pl@pjlesq.com or at (201) 904-2211. Don't forget to check out and subscribe to our podcast and YouTube channel. We have hundreds of podcasts and videos concerning a variety of business and legal topics. I look forward to answering any questions that you might have.

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As with any legal issue, it is important that you obtain competent legal counsel before making any decisions about how to respond to a subpoena or whether to challenge one - even if you believe that compliance is not required. Because each situation is different, it may be impossible for this article to address all issues raised by every situation encountered in responding to a subpoena. The information below can give you guidance regarding some common issues related to subpoenas, but you should consult with an attorney before taking any actions (or refraining from acts) based on these suggestions. Separately, this post will focus on New Jersey law. If you receive a subpoena in a state other than New Jersey you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney in your state as certain rules differ in other states.

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