Legal remedies and equitable remedies are both forms of court-granted relief, but they differ significantly in purpose, nature, and scope. Typically, legal remedies consist of monetary compensations or damages awarded when a party has breached a contract or caused damage. The objective is to restore the affected party to the position they would have occupied if the contract had been fulfilled or the damage had not occurred.
In contrast, equitable remedies are more nuanced and adaptable. Typically, they are awarded when monetary damages are insufficient or inappropriate. They may include orders such as specific performance (requiring a party to fulfil a contract), injunctions (ordering a party to stop doing something), and rescission (cancelling a contract). Originating from the discrete systems of law courts (which granted legal remedies) and equity courts (which granted equitable remedies), the difference between the two is historical. In many jurisdictions, these two systems have been merged, but there are still differences between the available remedies.
What are Legal Remedies?
Legal remedies are a type of compensation that a court gives to a person or group that has been wronged or hurt by the acts of another person or group. The goal of legal remedies is to right a wrong, generally by giving the person who was hurt money to make up for what they lost. Most of the time, these options are used in civil law cases. There are different ways to get justice in the law. Damages are the most common type. They involve giving funds to the person who was hurt to make up for what they lost. Damages can be compensatory, which is meant to put the person who was hurt back where they were before the harm happened, or punishing, which is meant to punish the person who did wrong and discourage others from doing the same thing.
Restitution is another legal solution. This is when the person who did wrong has to give back the funds or items that they got unfairly by hurting other people. Replevin is a legal remedy in which the court orders the return of certain goods or property to the true owner. Lastly, a declaratory judgement is a type of legal remedy in which the court defines the legal relationship or standing of the parties without necessarily ordering any action or giving damages.
What are Equitable Remedies?
Equitable remedies are a type of relief that a court gives when money damages or other legal remedies aren’t enough or aren’t the right way to fix a wrong or harm. They are based on truth and justice, and most of the time, the judge decides whether or not to give them. Injunctions are a common type of equitable relief in which the court tells one party to do or stop doing something. For instance, a court might issue an order to stop a company from damaging the environment.
Specific performance is another type of equitable relief in which the court tells a party to do what they agreed to do in a contract. This remedy is usually used when the subject of the contract is unique, like in real estate deals, and monetary losses aren’t enough to cover the loss. Rescission is a fair solution that lets a contract be broken and the parties go back to where they were before the contract. This could happen if a deal was made with false information, a mistake, or too much pressure. Lastly, constructive trust can be used as a fair remedy when one party is unfairly enriched at the cost of another. For this to work, the party must give back the unfairly gained rewards.
Difference Between Legal Remedies and Equitable Remedies
There is a difference between the goals and forms of relief available through legal and equitable remedies. Damages, or monetary compensation, is the primary form of redress in the law, and it is awarded to the party who has been hurt in the event of a breach of contract or other form of damage. When monetary recompense would be inadequate or inappropriate, however, courts may resort to equitable remedies. They entail court orders directing a party to act or refrain from acting in a certain way, such as completing contractual duties (specific performance) or stopping damaging activities (injunctions). Both of these are examples of equitable relief. Rather than simply making up for monetary losses, the goals of these remedies are fairness and justice. The main differences between the two terms are broken down beneath.
Nature of Relief
In contrast to equitable remedies, which typically require court rulings, legal remedies might take the form of monetary compensation or damages.
Both legal and equitable remedies work towards the same goal, which is to put the wronged party back in the same financial position they were in before the incident.
Equitable remedies are founded on the ideals of fairness and justice, as opposed to legal remedies, which are grounded on the letter of the law.
If a claim is substantiated, the plaintiff is usually entitled to a legal remedy as a matter of right, whereas equitable remedies are awarded at the court’s discretion.
Contract and tort cases frequently use legal remedies, but property and contract issues involving unique or irreplaceable performance frequently use equitable remedies.
A jury decides on legal remedies, whereas a judge hears and rules on equitable remedies.
Preliminary injunctions and other equitable remedies are sometimes only a stopgap measure until a permanent solution can be obtained, while legal remedies usually lead to a conclusion.
In contrast to injunctions, particular performance, rescission, and constructive trusts, which are all instances of equitable remedies, compensatory damages and restitution are examples of legal remedies.