Statutory damages are a type of award that can be granted by a court to a plaintiff in a case where statutory law is violated. These damages are pre-established and included in the text of the legislation to which they pertain. This is generally done because such cases involve circumstances where the calculation of a plaintiff’s actual entitlement, also known as compensatory damages, would be either difficult or impossible. Examples of cases where statutory damages are likely to be awarded include patent infringement and public policy violations.
Regulations set by a legislature are known as statutory laws. Statutory damages may be outlined in those laws. These are sums of money victims are entitled to when people break those laws and other people are harmed.
When cases are argued in court, a plaintiff is often able to outline certain expenses or losses she incurred as a result of the defendant’s actions. If the plaintiff wins the case, the court may award her compensatory damages. These generally cover the amounts she has argued for.
With cases involving statutory damages, arguments regarding how much a person is entitled to are generally not necessary. Specific costs that may be considered in these cases are court costs and attorney fees. The plaintiff, however, generally bears no burden to prove she is worthy of the amount awarded to her by the court.
Many critics of statutory damages argue that they are often excessive. It is common for statutory law to outline an award range instead of setting a specific amount. The award may also be subject to special conditions.
The ability to receive statutory damages is one of the benefits creators receive when registering works with the US Copyright Office. Copyright and trademark infringement cases are good examples of instances where this type of damages is commonly awarded and actual damages could be difficult to calculate. In these cases, the victim has the right to choose whether she wants to receive actual damages and costs or statutory damages, which will be determined by the court and will be within the range outlined by the law.
If she chooses statutory damages and the infringement is deemed intentional, the court is granted permission by the law to exceed the range up to a given amount. If it is found that the infringement existed but was unintentional, the court can reduce the award below the range to a provided minimum. These are examples of what are often considered special conditions.