What does it mean to mitigate damages?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

So one of the many legal terms that you hear from time to time is the term to “mitigate damages.”

What does that term actually mean?

Well, the best way to define it is to give an example.  Say you are renting a property and the tenant skips out on the lease and that person owed $1,000.00 a month and they still owed 10 months’ worth of rent.  So they owe you $10,000.00, correct?

Yes and no.  The law says that you owe a duty to mitigate your damages.

If you were unable to rent out the property for 10 months, yes, the former tenant would owe you $10,000.00.  However, if after two months, you are able to rent out the property for $1,000.00, then you are required to mitigate your damages and give them credit for all of the money you made, so they only owe you $2,000.00.  If you rent it out 5 months, for $800.00 then they owe you $6,000.00.

Its easy to see how this legal terminology can be applied in a landlord-tenant case, but it can applied in all kinds of cases, contract cases and construction cases to name a couple.

What’s the rationale behind this?  Its so that the party suing doesn’t get to double dip.  If they re-rent out their property, while collecting money from someone who has already left can be considered a windfall and unequitable.

 

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

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