It has already been remarked, that the common law does not aim at preventing a breach of duty, or compelling the fulfilment of a contract by direct means. This equity does. But, as a general rule, the common law contents itself with requiring him who has done an injury to another, to pay the injured party damages. And even where, as in debt or assumpsit, for a specific sum, the action is, in fact, as Lord Mansfield remarked, (a) a suit for specific performance, it is not altogether so in form.
The principle which measures damages, at common law, is that of giving compensation for the injury sustained, - a compensation which shall put the injured party in the same position in which he would have stood had he not been injured; (b) the simplest form of which occurs where the ground of the action is the wrongful non-payment of money due, and the damages consist of the money, with interest, for the whole period intervening between the refusal and the judgment. But in some instances the law lessens this compensation, leaving upon the injured party a part of his loss; and in others, increases the compensation, by way of punishment to the wrong-doer.
Where the action is for non-payment of money, the legal rate of interest is the measure of damages; and it is a general, if not a universal rule, that more cannot be allowed. (bb)l And where the action is for the use of property, in the absence of all contract, the measure of damages is the value of the use to the defendant, although the owner himself made no use of it. (bc) Where an action is brought in this country for damages sustained in, or an amount payable in, a foreign country, that amount of our currency is recoverable, which will enable the creditor to realize his debt in the coin current in the place where the debt is payable. (bd)
(a) "Pecuniary damages upon a contract for payment of money, are, from the nature of the thine, a specific performance." Per Lord Mansfield, in Robinson p. Bland, 2 Burr. 1077, 1086. See also Rudder v. Price, 1 H. BL 547, 554, per Lord Loughborough.
(b) "The rule of the common law is, that where a party sustains a loss by reason of a breach of contract, he is, so far as money can do it, to be placed in the same situation, with respect to damages, as if the contract had been performed." Per Parke, B., in Robinson v. Harman, 1 Exch. 855. See, for the special signification of "damna" in law, Co. Litt. 257 a. See also Lock v. Furze, L. R. 1 C. P. 453. " Damages are to be estimated, where the contract might be performed in several ways, according to that mode which is least profitable to the plaintiff, and least burdensome to the defendant." Per Maule, J., in Cockburn, v. Alexander, 6 C. B. 814.
(bb) Vennum v. Gregory, 21 Iowa, 326.
1 In Grindle v. Eastern Express Co. 67 Me. 317, the plaintiff's intestate delivered to the defendant $24.90, to be forwarded to a life insurance company.