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, 'special damage' is a term of art that means, essentially, damage that can be assessed in monetary terms. It does not have to be an actual loss of money, but must be the loss of something to which pecuniary value can be attached. Special damage may include personal injury, but it does not include loss of reputation, irritation and annoyance, or discomfort that falls short of actual injury.
Special damage is mostly encountered in Defamation. To succeed in an action for Slander, the claimant must show special damage (usually). To succeed in libel he need not. Slander that causes a person to be shunned by his friends and neighbours is not Actionable, because social exclusion, in itself, cannot be ascribed a monetary value. However, if X shuns Y to the extent that X refuses to buy the pint of beer he promised Y earlier in the evening, then that is special damage, albeit minor. The term also arises in the disucssion of Nuisance; unlike Trespass which is always actionable, to succeed in a claim of nuisance, the defendant must show that he suffered special damage.