make one whole

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Make one whole is a theory of remedying a breach of contract or other legal obligation. The idea is that someone should be awarded damages to put that person in the same position they would have been if the obligation was not broken. While the idea is simple, in practice the concept is difficult to implement. For example, Jessica signed a contract with Raul to store items in his NYC apartment for $2,000 a year, but Raul broke the contract, refusing to let Jessica store anything there. In this situation, states, courts, and lawyers differ on what making Jessica whole would entail. It may cost $3,000 for a similar contract. Many courts would award Jessica $1,000 damages for the increased price Jessica now has to pay. However, Jessica may have incurred other expenses like paying $200 to briefly store her items while finding another place to store her items long-term, or Jessica may have paid for extra flights to NYC in order to resolve the issue. These other expenses would often not be included in a remedy, leaving Jessica not in the same position she would have been if Raul had not broken the contract. These gaps lead to critiques of remedies based on “making one whole” not actually doing so. For more information on remedies and damages, click here

[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]