The Gloucester Grammar School case is a very important case and is a landmark judgement that is referred to in many cases that deal with the Law of Torts. The case elaborates and explains the legal maxim “Damnum sine Injuria”. This case has acted as a precedent in multiple cases and is a historic in nature. The concept of damnum sine injuria has been well articulated in this. Damnum sine injuria is a Latin legal maxim that literally means “damage without injury”. We will be discussing this maxim in the later sections of this article.
Details Of The Case
Hon’ble Judge – Justice Y.B. Hillary
Parties involved- Petitioner/Plaintiff- Gloucester Grammar School, Defendant- School teacher
Statutes referred to in the decision of this case- Tort Law
Facts of Gloucester Grammar School Case
In this case, there was a school named Gloucester Grammar school where the defendant used to teach. The defendant then resigned and quit his job at the school due to some internal dispute between the management and him. The defendant then set up his own school. This new school that the defendant set up was right in front of Gloucester Grammar School. The defendant, now the rival school teacher was well-known for his teaching skills which were easy and explicit to understand. The defendant was therefore well known and liked by the students of the plaintiff’s school. Thus, this made the boys from the plaintiff’s school join the defendant’s school. In order to attract more students, the defendant also reduced the school fees and kept it nearly two times lesser than the fees charged by the plaintiff’s school. Apart from the teaching, this is another factor that drove the students to leave the plaintiff’s school and join the defendant’s school. This led to a massive depletion of students as well as pecuniary losses for the plaintiff school. Following this, the owner of Gloucester Grammar School i.e., the plaintiff school’s owner filed a lawsuit against the rival school teacher (the defendant) in order to recover the damages that were caused by the establishment of the defendant’s school. The petitioner claimed that the opening up of the new school near the old school has caused a lot of financial losses to the school and thus these losses should be compensated.
Issues Raised In Gloucester Grammar School Case
The two main issues raised in the Gloucester Grammar School Case. These are
- Can the pecuniary and monetary losses suffered by the plaintiff be compensated due to the establishment of the new school in close vicinity?
- Does the Gloucester Grammar School case come under the concept of the legal maxim Damnum Sine Injuria? And if yes, then how can the defendant skip liability?
Judgement Of Gloucester Grammar School Case
In Gloucester Grammar School Case, Hon’ble Judge Justice Y.B. Hillary said that the defendant was not liable and the suit was dismissed. Compensation is not the ground of action despite the fact that the monetary loss is caused but if no legal right is infringed or violated. The defendant had lawfully established his school and did not go against any laws and did not violate any legal rights of the plaintiff’s school during the process. The damages that the plaintiff had to suffer that were caused by the defendant did not infringe any legal rights of the plaintiff.
This was a mere case of business competition between Gloucester grammar school and the defendant’s school. Establishing and starting a new school and educating students is the defendant’s professional right and is legitimate in terms of the law. The decision made by the defendant to charge a lower fee was completely his call and he did not commit any legal wrong by doing so. Just setting up a new school and increasing competition is not a legal wrong. Thus, the court ruled in the favour of the defendant and did not hold him liable for this act.
According to the judgement of Gloucester Grammar School Case, the defendant was not held liable on the grounds that there was no infringement of legal rights of the plaintiff. The judgement is absolutely right in my opinion. To hold someone liable under the Law of Torts, there are three main factors that should be satisfied. They are:
- Wrongful Act
- Legal Damage
- Legal Remedy
The act should satisfy all three conditions, only then the defendant will be made to pay damages. In the case of Gloucester Grammar School, there was no legal damage caused. Just because the plaintiff suffered some monetary losses it doesn’t mean that the defendant has to compensate for the losses. The defendant set up the school legally and educated the students. The act of setting up the school maybe a morally wrongful act which satisfies the first condition. However, since there was no legal damage, the defendant did not have to compensate for the damages caused. The students that shifted from Gloucester grammar school to the rival school did no wrong and it was their legal right to have to liberty to choose where they want to study. If studying from the defendant is what they enjoyed and preferred over Gloucester Grammar School, then they have the right to leave the school. The plaintiff has no right to ask for compensation even though he has suffered some loss. An individual does not have the right to stop another individual from running a business that is legal.
Damnum Sine Injuria
The court while giving the judgement also mentions the legal maxim, Damnum sine injuria”. Damnum sine injuria is a part of Law of Torts. Law of torts is the branch of law controlling the behaviour of people in society. It is a growing branch of law and its main object is to define individual rights and duties in the light of prevalent standards of reasonable conduct and public convenience. Damnum sine injuria literally translates to “damage without injury” or “loss suffered without an actual injury”. When a wrongful act is done but no legal damage is caused, then such a case will fall under the maxim Damnum Sine Injuria. For such cases, no legal remedy will be given as no legal damage was done. No compensation or damages will be paid in cases of Damnum sine injuria. The Gloucester Grammar school case is one such case that falls under the umbrella of this maxim. The rival teacher had performed a morally wrongful act in order to get back at the plaintiff’ school but he did not infringe any legal rights nor did he cause any legal damage in this act. The court thus concluded that this case covers all the aspects of Damnum Sine Injuria hence no compensation can be claimed.
The court then pronounced the judgement that the defendant was not liable and the plaintiff was not eligible to get compensation for the financial losses suffered by him. The court also pronounced that every individual can pursue any profession, business, and employment as long as it is legal. In the Gloucester grammar school case, it was just competition and nothing illegal and competition is very common and is part of every business. Thus, no legal remedy will be awarded to such cases.
Similar Case Laws To Gloucester Grammar School Case
There are some other landmark judgements that have been passed which fall under the umbrella of Damnum sine injuria. Some important cases are;
Chasemore v. Richards 1859
In the case of Chasemore v. Richards, the plaintiff had a mill on the property he owned. To run the mill, the plaintiff was using water from the stream. The defendant then dug his own well in his land. By doing this, the water from the stream accumulated in the defendant’s well. This cut off the water supply for the plaintiff’s mill. The plaintiff’s mill then shut down due to a lack of water and minimal water quantity in the stream. This caused the plaintiff to suffer monetary losses and thus he sued the defendant for the damages and losses caused. This was a clear case of Damnum Sine Injuria since there was no legal damage caused. The defendant just used the available water. This was a legal act and thus the defendant was not held liable by the law.
Mogul Steamship Co. Ltd v. McGregor, Gow & Co
In this case, Mogul Steamship, the plaintiff owned a ship. He used the ship to send his cargo port to obtain cargo from China to England. The defendants were a group of four and were rivals of the plaintiff. The defendants offered a special discount to the customers in order to attract more of them. This caused the plaintiff to suffer losses and thus sued the defendants for the same. He demanded compensation for the losses caused by them. The court held that the defendants were not liable in this case as there was no element of legal damage. The act was wrong however no remedy could be given as there was no legal injury caused. This is another case of Damnum sine injuria which means “damages without injury”.
In my opinion, the court pronounced the right decision in the case of Gloucester Grammar School as it is wrong to punish individuals just because of losses caused due to competition. It is not lawful to punish people who are exercising their rights, even though it may make others unhappy. An act may be wrongful morally, but does not have to be unlawful and lead to a legal injury. A person should be punished only if the damages caused are illegal and the act infringes the rights of another individual. If this was not the case, every competitor can sue the others and the entire world of business would be chaotic. Every individual can choose what they want to do with respect to expanding their profession, like in this case the defendant left the school and established a new one. The defendant had all the rights to do this and the students were also free to choose where they want to study at. Nobody can infringe these rights of both the student and the teacher unless it is mentioned in the law. Henceforth, according to me the judgement by Justice Y.B. Hillary in the Gloucester Grammar School case was correct and in good faith.