Civil Law

BAGUMBAYAN CORPORATION vs.INTERMEDIATE APPELLATE COURT G.R. No. L-66274 September 30, 1984 Damages, Quasi-delict, Gross Negligence, Article 2176, Article 2180 of the Civil Code, Moral damages, Exemplary damages

FACTS:

The spouses Seña and their four children went to the Tropical Palace Hotel to see the Reycard Duet Show they occupied a table and ordered drinks before the show, when a waiter named Baez was going to serve the tray containing the drinks was overturned and fell on her. She was drenched. Later, she felt some chill. The drinks and the splinters from the broken glasses allegedly destroyed her dress which,with her handbag and shoes.

The Señas sued the corporation, as employer of the waiter, for actual damages of P200,000 plus attorney’s fees of P10,000 and such moral and exemplary damages as might be fixed by the court. The action involves a quasi-delict. It was based on articles 2176 and 2180 of the Civil Code.

The corporation in its answer alleged that it came to know of the incident only when it was served with summons. Had the incident been brought to its attention on that same night, it would have apologized immediately to the plaintiffs, made appropriate amends and taken steps to discipline the waiter and his supervisor.The trial court awarded the Señas P1,540 as actual damages consisting of the value of Mrs. Seña’s outfit and P540, the cost of the six tickets used by the Seña family which was considered a loss because of their alleged failure to enjoy the show. It also awarded the Señas P50,000 as moral damages, P10,000 as exemplary damages and P5,000 as attorney’s fees.

The corporation appealed. The IAC affirmed the judgment with the modification that the moral and exemplary damages were reduced to P15,000 and P5,000, respectively. Hence, this appeal.

ISSUE:

Whether the corporation is liable for moral and exemplary damages.

RULING:

While the award for actual damages has some basis, the grant of moral and exemplary damages is devoid of legal justification because it was not predicated upon any of the cases enumerated in the Civil Code. The Civil Code provides:

ART. 2217. Moral damages include physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety,besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation, and similar injury. Though incapable of pecuniary computation, moral damages may be recovered if they are the proximate result of the defendant’s wrongful act or omission.ART. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases:(1) A criminal offense resulting in physical injuries;

 

(2) Quasi-delicts causing physical injuries;

ART. 2220.

Willful injury to property may be a legal ground for awarding moral damages if the court should find that, under the circumstances, such damages are justly due. The same rule applies to breaches of contract where the defendant acted fraudulently or in bad faith.

The instant case is not specifically mentioned in article 2219 which refers to quasi-delicts causing physical injuries. The Appellate Court erred in considering it as analogous to the cases mentioned therein without indicating what specific case the instant case resembles or is analogous to. Generally, there can be no recovery of moral damages if the case is not mentioned in articles 2219 and2220.

What we call moral damages are treated in American jurisprudence as compensatory damages awarded for mental pain and suffering or mental anguish resulting from a wrong (25 C.J.S. 815).”

Generally, damages for mental anguish are limited to cases in which there has been a personal physical injury or where the defendant willfully, wantonly, recklessly, or intentionally caused the mental anguish. “Nor will damages generally be awarded for mental anguish which is not accompanied by a physical injury, at least where maliciousness, wantonness, or intentional conduct is not involved”.

“Damages for mental anguish and suffering have been held recoverable where the act complained of was done with such gross carelessness or recklessness as to show an utter indifference to the consequences. We hold that the “embarrassment” to which Mrs. Seña was exposed by the incident is not the mental anguish contemplated in article 2217 for which moral damages can be recovered.it would not be just and proper to include moral damages in the corporation’s vicarious liability as employer. The award of P5,000 as exemplary or corrective damages cannot also be sustained because there was no gross negligence in this case.

The decision of the Appellate Court was modified. The petitioner is ordered to pay Lelisa Seña the sum of P5,000 to cover her actual damages, litigation expenses and attorney’s fees. The award of moral and exemplary damages is eliminated.

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