nominal damages

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A trivial sum of money awarded to a plaintiff whose legal right has been technically violated but who has not established that they are entitled to compensatory damages because there was no accompanying loss or harm. Unlike compensatory damages which are intended to compensate for injury, nominal damages are awarded to commemorate the plaintiff’s vindication in court. One dollar is the amount awarded for nominal damages in the vast majority of cases; however, some jurisdictions hold that nominal damages can vary based on the context of the case. For example, in Fisher v. Barker the court held that the plaintiff was entitled to nominal damages of $100.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]