The law attempts to secure to the injured party the benefit of his bargain, subject to the limitations that the injury -- whether it be losses suffered or gains prevented -- was foreseeable, and that the amount of damages claimed be measurable with a reasonable degree of certainty and, of course, adequately proven. But it is equally fundamental that the injured party should not recover more from the breach than he would have gained had the contract been fully performed.
Plaintiff and defendant had entered into a contract in which plaintiff was to receive royalties from the published work. Plaintiff completed the manuscript of a modern drama. The contract allowed defendant to terminate the agreement if the manuscript was unsuitable. Unless terminated, defendant was required to publish the manuscript within 18 months. Defendant did neither. Plaintiff sued, and the trial court awarded damages for the cost of the hardcover publication. The appellate division affirmed. On appeal, the court reversed the award of damages.
Was plaintiff entitled to damages for the cost of publication?
Damages were awarded based on the natural and probable consequences of the breach to plaintiff. In this case, plaintiff's injuries were that he was prevented from collecting royalties. Plaintiff had not contracted for the printing and binding of the books. As a result, the court reversed the award for monetary damages, and awarded plaintiff nominal damages since the damages from the loss of royalties were too speculative.