The Measure of Damages
Most civil litigation is about compensating injured individuals or corporations, or preventing future harm through injunctive relief. The exceptions are those cases where government agencies use civil proceedings to collect money or enforce regulations, and divorce cases. In compensation cases, the monetary damages—the amount of money necessary to “make the plaintiff whole”— are the engine that drives civil litigation. If the plaintiff is personally wealthy or backed by a litigation advocacy group such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the decision to proceed with the case may be made on moral principle. Otherwise, without adequate damages to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s contingent fee and provide reasonable compensation for the client, most plaintiffs will be unable to obtain representation.