G.R. No. L-20089, 26 December 1964
Francisco Velez and Beatriz Wassmer, following their mutual promise of love, decided to get married and set a date as their big day. And so Wassmer made preparations such as: making and sending wedding invitations, bought her wedding dress and other apparels, and other wedding necessities. They applied for a license to contract marriage, which was subsequently issued. But 2 days before the scheduled day of wedding, Velez left a letter to Wassmer saying that they will have to postpone the wedding because his mom opposed the wedding. And one day before the wedding, he sent her a telegram stating that nothing has changed and that rest assured he will be returning soon. However, he did not appear nor was he heard from again.
This provoked Wassmer to file a civil case against Velez. He never filed an answer and eventually the judgment was made in favor of Wassmer. The court awarded exemplary and moral damages in favor of Wassmer.
On appeal, Velez argued that his failure to attend the scheduled wedding was due to fortuitous event or circumstances beyond his control. He further argued that he cannot be held civilly liable for breaching his promise to marry Wassmer because there is no law upon which such an action may be grounded. He also contested the award of exemplary and moral damages against him.
Whether or not the award of damages is proper.
YES. The defense of fortuitous events raised by Velez is not reasonable and also unsubstantiated.
Under Article 21 of the Civil Code which provides in part “any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.”It is true that a breach of promise to marry per se is not an actionable wrong. However, in this case, it was not a simple breach of promise to marry. To formally set a wedding and go through all the preparation and publicity, only to walk out of it when the matrimony is about to be solemnized, is quite different. Velez’s unreasonable withdrawal from the wedding is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy.
Under the law, any violation of Article 21 entitles the injured party to receive an award for moral damages as properly awarded by the lower court in this case. Further, the award of exemplary damages is also proper. Here, the circumstances of this case show that Velez, in breaching his promise to Wassmer, acted in wanton, reckless, and oppressive manner – this warrants the imposition of exemplary damages against him.
* Case digest by Ariel M. Acopiado, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018