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15 January, 2016 - 09:33

A party can recover only that amount of damage in law which can be proved with reasonable certainty. Especially troublesome in this regard are lost profits and loss of goodwill. Alf is convinced that next spring the American public will be receptive to polka-dotted belts with his name monogrammed in front. He arranges for a garment factory to produce 300,000 such belts, but the factory, which takes a large deposit from him in advance, misplaces the order and does not produce the belts in time for the selling season. When Alf discovers the failure, he cannot raise more money to go elsewhere, and his project fails. He cannot recover damages for lost profits because the number is entirely speculative; no one can prove how much he would have made, if anything. He can, instead, seek restitution of the monies advanced. If he had rented a warehouse to store the belts, he would also be able to recover his reliance interest.

Proof of lost profits is not always difficult: a seller can generally demonstrate the profit he would have made on the sale to the buyer who has breached. The problem is more difficult, as Alf’s case demonstrates, when it is the seller who has breached. A buyer who contracts for but does not receive raw materials, supplies, and inventory cannot show definitively how much he would have netted from the use he planned to make of them. But he is permitted to prove how much money he has made in the past under similar circumstances, and he may proffer financial and market data, surveys, and expert testimony to support his claim. When proof of profits is difficult or impossible, the courts may grant a nonmonetary award, such as specific performance.