Unnecessary damages which could have been avoided by the insured cannot be recovered in a lawsuit for breach of contract as every Oklahoma insurance lawyer well knows. A party who asserts a claim for breach of contract against an insurance company has a duty to use reasonable efforts to mitigate his damages. Hidalgo Properties, Inc. v. Wachovia Mortgage Company, 617 F.2d 196, (10th Cir. 1980) A party, including a policyholder, has a duty under Oklahoma law, to make all reasonable efforts to minimize his damages. Sabine Corp. v. ONG Western, Inc., 725 F.Supp. 1157, (Okla. W.D. 1989).
The principle of mitigation of damages is summarized in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts Section 350 comments (1979) as follows:
As a general rule, a party cannot recover damages for loss that he could have avoided by reasonable efforts. Once a party has reason to know that performance by the other party will not be forthcoming, he is ordinarily expected to stop his own performance to avoid further expenditure. . . . Furthermore, he is expected to take such affirmative steps as are appropriate in the circumstances to avoid loss by making substitute arrangements or otherwise.
A promisee is not required to go to extraordinary lengths or expense to avoid loss; only efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances are necessary.
Any Oklahoma insurance law attorney defending a case brought against an insurance company for breach of contract, fraud, bad faith, or any other cause of action will always look to see if the losses could have been reasonably avoided to prevent the insurance company from being forced to pay more than the law requires. The lawyer representing the insured will attempt to show reasonable efforts were used or it was impossible to lessen the damage.
My favorite example is the hail storm that knocks a hole in the roof. The insured needs to do something to stop the water from raining inside and soaking the furniture, i.e., mitigate or lessen the damage by tarping the hole in the roof. He can't just sit back and watch the water run down the walls!