What is a plaintiff’s duty to mitigate?

When someone has suffered a loss due to another party’s actions, it’s only fair to expect the responsible party to pay the damages.

It’s not fair, however, to ask someone to pay unreasonable damages. That’s where the plaintiff’s duty to mitigate their losses (or the “doctrine of avoidable consequences”) comes into play. If a plaintiff could have easily minimized their actual losses or avoided them altogether, they’re generally expected to do so.

What are some examples of a duty to mitigate?

Every case is very fact-specific, and each situation is unique. However, here are some examples that can illustrate a plaintiff’s duty to mitigate their losses:

  • A lost job: Someone is fired from their job in an act of obvious discrimination. While they pursue their wrongful termination lawsuit, they are still expected to mitigate their losses by finding new employment.
  • A canceled delivery: A buyer abruptly cancels an order from a manufacturer – in violation of their contract – for a lot of widgets. The manufacturer may have to sue, but they’re expected to try to offload the widgets to another buyer if they can.
  • A repossessed vehicle: A bank repossesses a buyer’s vehicle after they fail to make the payments. They’re expected to sell the vehicle for whatever they can get for it and only pursue the former owner for the difference.
  • An injury victim: Someone gets injured in a car wreck, and they need time off work to heal. However, they’re expected to follow their doctor’s recommended course of treatment, take their prescribed medication and do whatever else is reasonable to recover as quickly as possible.

Defendants frequently allege that a victim in a civil lawsuit failed to mitigate their own losses, so make sure you’re conscious of what you need to do in order to strengthen your legal position.



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