Define: Adequate Remedy At Law

Adequate Remedy At Law
Adequate Remedy At Law
Quick Summary of Adequate Remedy At Law

Adequate Remedy Law refers to the availability of a legal remedy that is sufficient to address a particular legal claim or dispute. It is a fundamental principle in the legal system that individuals should have access to a remedy that can adequately compensate them for any harm or injury they have suffered.

For a remedy to be considered adequate, it must be capable of providing a fair and just resolution to the dispute. This means that the remedy should be able to fully compensate the injured party for any damages they have incurred, whether they are economic, physical, or emotional.

The concept of adequate remedy at law is closely tied to the idea of access to justice. It ensures that individuals can seek redress through the legal system and have their claims heard and resolved fairly and impartially.

If a court determines that an adequate remedy at law is not available, it may grant equitable relief instead. Equitable relief refers to remedies that are based on principles of fairness and justice rather than strict legal rules. Examples of equitable relief include injunctions, specific performance, and declaratory judgements.

In summary, the principle of adequate remedy at law ensures that individuals have access to a legal remedy that can adequately compensate them for any harm or injury they have suffered. It is a fundamental aspect of the legal system that promotes fairness and justice in resolving disputes.

Courts will not grant equitable remedies, such as specific performance or injunctions, where monetary damages can afford complete legal relief. An equitable remedy interferes much more with the defendant’s freedom of action than an order directing the defendant to pay for the harm he or she has caused, and it is much more difficult for a court to supervise and enforce judgements giving some relief other than money. Courts, therefore, will compensate an injured party whenever possible with monetary damages; this remedy has been called the remedy at law since the days when courts of equity and courts at law were different.

What is the dictionary definition of Adequate Remedy At Law?
Dictionary Definition of Adequate Remedy At Law

Adequate Remedy Law refers to a legal solution or recourse that is sufficient and appropriate to address a particular legal issue or dispute. It is a remedy available within the existing legal framework that can adequately compensate or resolve the harm or injury suffered by a party. An adequate remedy at law typically involves seeking relief through the court system, such as monetary damages, injunctions, specific performance, or other legal remedies, rather than resorting to self-help or extrajudicial means. The determination of whether a remedy is adequate is often subjective and depends on the specific circumstances and nature of the legal claim.

adequate compensation by way of monetary damages.

In UK law, the concept of “adequate remedy at law” refers to the availability of legal remedies or recourse within the existing judicial system to address a particular grievance, harm, or violation of rights suffered by an individual or entity. It signifies that the law provides sufficient means for seeking redress or compensation for a legal wrong through established legal procedures and remedies, such as monetary damages, injunctions, declaratory relief, specific performance, or other equitable remedies. The determination of whether an adequate remedy at law exists depends on various factors, including the nature of the harm, the legal principles applicable to the case, and the effectiveness of available legal remedies in providing a fair and just resolution. If the court determines that an adequate remedy at law is available, it may decline to grant alternative relief sought by the aggrieved party, emphasising the importance of exhausting available legal avenues before seeking extraordinary remedies or equitable relief.

Full Definition Of Adequate Remedy At Law

In the realm of legal theory and practice, the concept of an “adequate remedy at law” plays a pivotal role in determining the appropriate forum and type of relief for plaintiffs. This term is rooted in the distinction between legal and equitable remedies, a division that has evolved over centuries, particularly within common law jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom. This essay provides a comprehensive overview of the adequate remedy at law, its historical context, its practical implications, and its significance in modern legal systems.

Historical Context

The distinction between legal and equitable remedies can be traced back to the English legal system, where the rigid common law courts often failed to provide satisfactory solutions for certain types of disputes. In response, the Court of Chancery emerged as an equitable jurisdiction to address cases where the application of strict legal rules resulted in injustice. The Lord Chancellor, who presided over the Court of Chancery, had the discretion to issue remedies based on principles of fairness, justice, and conscience, rather than adhering strictly to legal precedents.

This dual system of law and equity persisted for centuries, with the legal courts providing remedies such as damages (monetary compensation) and the equitable courts offering remedies like injunctions, specific performance, and rescission. The Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875 unified the administration of law and equity in England, merging the courts but preserving the distinct nature of legal and equitable remedies.

Definition of Adequate Remedy at Law

An “adequate remedy at law” refers to a remedy that is sufficient to address a legal wrong or injury, typically through monetary compensation. When a plaintiff seeks relief in a court of law, the court must determine whether a legal remedy, such as damages, is adequate to resolve the dispute. If the court finds that a legal remedy is sufficient, it may deny the plaintiff access to equitable remedies, which are traditionally reserved for situations where legal remedies are inadequate.

Criteria for Adequacy

Determining whether a legal remedy is adequate involves several considerations:

  • Completeness: A remedy must fully compensate the plaintiff for the harm suffered. If monetary damages can make the plaintiff whole, the remedy is likely deemed adequate.
  • Certainty: The remedy must be clear and certain in its application. Uncertainty in the amount or availability of damages can render a legal remedy inadequate.
  • Efficiency: The remedy should be practical and not unduly burdensome to obtain. Prolonged litigation or complex enforcement issues may suggest inadequacy.
  • Substitutability: If the harm suffered is unique or non-substitutable (e.g., loss of a unique piece of property or breach of a non-compete agreement), a legal remedy may be inadequate.

Equitable Remedies

When a legal remedy is deemed inadequate, courts may turn to equitable remedies to ensure justice. Equitable remedies are discretionary and tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. Key equitable remedies include:

  • Injunction: A court order requiring a party to do or refrain from doing a specific act. Injunctions can be temporary (interim) or permanent and are often used to prevent ongoing or imminent harm.
  • Specific Performance: An order requiring a party to fulfil their contractual obligations. This remedy is typically used in cases involving unique goods or properties, where monetary damages would be insufficient.
  • Rescission: The cancellation of a contract, returning the parties to their pre-contractual positions. Rescission is appropriate when a contract is voidable due to factors like misrepresentation, mistake, or duress.
  • Reformation: The modification of a contract to reflect the true intentions of the parties. This remedy is used when a written agreement fails to accurately capture the terms agreed upon due to fraud or mutual mistake.

Judicial Discretion and Equitable Principles

The granting of equitable remedies is subject to judicial discretion, guided by principles such as fairness, justice, and good conscience. Courts may consider factors like the behaviour of the parties, the presence of clean hands (i.e., the plaintiff’s conduct must be free from wrongdoing), and the balance of hardships between the parties.

Modern Application

In contemporary legal systems, the distinction between legal and equitable remedies remains relevant, though the administration of these remedies has become more integrated. Courts are generally empowered to provide both legal and equitable relief in a single proceeding, reflecting the unified approach established by the Judicature Acts.

The concept of an adequate remedy at law continues to influence the availability of equitable remedies. For example, in cases involving intellectual property disputes, employment contracts, and consumer protection, courts often assess whether legal remedies, such as damages, can fully address the plaintiff’s harm. If not, equitable remedies like injunctions or specific performance may be granted.

Case Law

To illustrate the application of the adequate remedy at law, consider the following landmark cases:

  • American Cyanamid Co v Ethicon Ltd [1975] AC 396: This House of Lords decision established guidelines for granting interim injunctions, emphasizing the need for a serious question to be tried and the balance of convenience. The adequacy of damages is a crucial factor in this analysis, with the court considering whether damages would suffice to compensate the plaintiff if the injunction were not granted.
  • Co-operative Insurance Society Ltd v Argyll Stores (Holdings) Ltd [1998] AC 1: In this case, the House of Lords refused to grant specific performance for the operation of a supermarket, citing the impracticality and continuous supervision required. The court highlighted the need for an adequate legal remedy and the challenges posed by enforcing specific performance in such contexts.
  • Mareva Compania Naviera SA v International Bulkcarriers SA [1980] 1 All ER 213: This case introduced the concept of the Mareva injunction (freezing order), allowing courts to freeze a defendant’s assets to prevent dissipation before a judgment is obtained. The adequacy of damages was a key consideration, with the court recognizing that without such an injunction, the plaintiff’s legal remedy might be rendered ineffective.

Criticisms and Challenges

While the concept of an adequate remedy at law is well-established, it is not without criticisms and challenges. Some argue that the distinction between legal and equitable remedies can be artificial and lead to inconsistent outcomes. Additionally, the discretionary nature of equitable remedies can result in unpredictability and variability in judicial decisions.

Moreover, the assessment of adequacy can be subjective, influenced by judicial perspectives and the specific circumstances of each case. This subjectivity can create uncertainty for litigants, particularly in complex or novel disputes where the adequacy of legal remedies is not immediately clear.


The concept of an adequate remedy at law is a cornerstone of the distinction between legal and equitable remedies. Rooted in historical developments and refined through judicial interpretation, it continues to shape the availability of equitable relief in modern legal systems. By ensuring that legal remedies are sufficient to address harm, courts can uphold principles of justice and fairness while maintaining the integrity of the legal system.

Understanding the nuances of this concept is essential for legal practitioners, judges, and scholars, as it underscores the balance between strict legal rules and the flexible, discretionary nature of equity. As legal systems evolve, the interplay between legal and equitable remedies will remain a dynamic and critical area of legal theory and practice.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 8th June 2024.

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