Legal Memorandum: Readily Ascertainable Damages in MN

Issue: What is the meaning of ‘readily ascertainable’ damages for purposes of awarding prejudgment interest in Minnesota?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Readily ascertainable; Damages; Prejudgment interest
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 542 N.W.2d 634; 657 N.W.2d 853; 639 F.3d 857; 219 N.W.2d 922; 399 N.W.2d 681; 515 N.W.2d 379; 534 N.W.2d 261; 223 N.W.2d 141
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 04/01/2013


Damages are “readily ascertainable” for purposes of awarding prejudgment interest if they can be determined by computation or reference to generally recognized standards, such as market value, but not where the amount of damages depends on contingencies or jury discretion, as in actions for personal injury or injury to reputation.  Peterson v. BASF Corp., 657 N.W.2d 853, 873-74 (Minn. Ct. App. 2003) (citing Potter v. Hartzell Propeller, Inc., 291 Minn. 513, 518, 189 N.W.2d 499, 504 (1971)), aff’d, 675 N.W.2d 57 (Minn. 2004), vacated on other grounds, 125 S. Ct. 1968 (2005), on remand, 711 N.W.2d 470 (Minn. 2006).  In Peterson, the court held that the determination that the plaintiff-farmers’ damages were not readily ascertainable prior to their filing a consumer fraud action was not clearly erroneous in light of the experts’ differing opinions as to damages, which were based on a variety of factors, including dates and extent of damages. Id. at 874.  A “mere difference” of opinion as to the amount of damages does not, however, preclude an award of prejudgment interest.  Id.

Similarly, in Wenzel v. Mathies, 542 N.W.2d 634 (Minn. Ct. App. 1996), pledgees of a bank holding company’s stock were not entitled to prejudgment interest on damages for breach of fiduciary duty by officer-directors of the bank, where the officer-directors’ issuance of new shares in the bank had the effect of diluting the value of the holding company stock and transferred control […]

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