In an earlier article, I discussed an owner’s measure of damages when a contractor breaches the construction contract. This article discussed a case where the contractor elected to walk off a residential renovation job due to a payment dispute when he demanded more money and the owners did not bite. This case also discussed the commonly asserted defense known as mitigation of damages, i.e., the other party failed to properly mitigate their own damages.
In the breach of contract setting, mitigation of damages refers to those damages the other side could have reasonably avoided had he undertaken certain (reasonable) measures. This is known as the doctrine of avoidable consequences.
In contract cases, there is really no “duty to mitigate” because the claimant “is not compelled to undertake any ameliorative efforts”; rather, he is merely prevented from recovering damages he “could have reasonably avoided.” The word “reasonably” is important. The doctrine of avoidable consequences does not allow a trial court to reduce damages “based on what ‘could have been avoided’ through Herculean efforts. It applies only where a claimant fails to undertake measures to avoid damages that are available to him without undue effort or expense.
Forbes v. Prime General Contractors, Inc., 43 Fla.L.Weekly D2094a (Fla. 2d DCA 2018) (internal citations omitted).
Stated differently, (1) what reasonable efforts could the other party have undertaken to avoid damage or further damage and (2) if the other party employed such efforts, what is the quantum of those avoidable damages. Typically, you want these addressed by an expert witness so that there is evidence of reasonable efforts the other side could have undertaken and had these efforts been undertaken their damages would be reduced to “X” or it would have prevented them from incurring “Y” in damages.
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