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Contracts and Commercial Law

Damages Must Be Proven With Reasonable Certainty

 A plaintiff must prove his damages claim with reasonable certainty by providing sufficient facts and circumstances to allow the fact finder to make an intelligent and probable estimate of the damages sustained. In Crum v. Anonymizer, the Fairfax Circuit Court refused to modify a jury verdict awarding the plaintiff less than he contended he was owed when the court found he failed to present sufficient evidence of his damages.

In Crum, the jury found that Anonymizer, Inc. had breached its Sales Incentive Plan when it capped Daniel Crum's total commissions and cut his commission percentage from 6% to 3%. The jury awarded Crum $139,458.17 in damages, but it determined that Crum had not proven his breach of contract claim with regard to post-termination commissions.

Crum made a Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, asserting that the Sales Incentive Plan contained the only conditions he had to satisfy to earn commissions and that no evidence had been presented that he had failed to satisfy those conditions. Crum contended that the only evidence shown was that Anonymizer stopped payments once it no longer employed Crum. Anonymizer produced evidence that corporate practice was to stop paying sales commissions after termination, but there was no evidence that continued employment was a condition of the Sales Incentive Plan. Accordingly, Crum argued that the jury had no basis to conclude that continued employment was a condition and should have awarded him damages on his post-termination claim.

The court denied Crum's motion, finding that Crum had failed to present sufficient evidence on post-termination damages. Crum did not present enough evidence on whether he was entitled to commissions on accounts that were renewed after he was terminated, and he provided no evidence as to dates on which contracts ended or were renewed. Although he submitted a summary of total commissions he expected to receive post-termination, he failed to identify which commissions were received on original contracts versus renewals. Therefore, the jury had no way to differentiate between commissions earned on contracts in existence before Crum's termination and those earned on contracts which were not in effect at the time of his termination but were renewed later.

Read the rest of the article at the Virginia Business Litigation Lawyer blog.

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