How much are “nominal damages”?

One of the issues in this case was the quantum of nominal damages. The traditional view is that nominal damages mean “a sum of money that may be spoken of, but has no existence in point of quantity” (see Beaumont v Greathead [1846]). However, the claimant sought to argue that the Supreme Court decision of Lumba v Secretary of State [2011] supported his submission his submission that his nominal damages should be GBP 1,000.

That argument was rejected by Spencer J. In Lumba the majority had assessed nominal damages at GBP 1 and the minority members of the court who had referred to a range of between GBP 500 - 1,000 had been talking about modest substantive damages, rather than nominal damages.

The defendant was therefore awarded nominal damages of GBP 1.