G.R. No. 73867, February 29, 1988, 158 SCRA 445
Sofia, one of the plaintiffs, sent a telegram thru Telefast to her father and other siblings in the USA to inform about the death of their mother. Unfortunately, the deceased had already been interred but not one from the relatives abroad was able to pay their last respects. Sofia found out upon her return in the US that the telegram was never received. Hence the suit for damages on the ground of breach of contract. The defendant-petitioner argues that it should only pay the actual amount paid to it.
The lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded compensatory, moral, exemplary damages to each of the plaintiffs with 6% interest per annum plus attorney’s fees. The Court of Appeals affirmed this ruling but modified and eliminated the compensatory damages to Sofia and exemplary damages to each plaintiff, it also reduced the moral damages for each. The petitioner appealed contending that, it can only be held liable for P 31.92, the fee or charges paid by Sofia for the telegram that was never sent to the addressee, and that the moral damages should be removed since defendant’s negligent act was not motivated by “fraud, malice or recklessness.
Whether or not the award of the moral, compensatory and exemplary damages is proper.
Yes, award of moral, compensatory and exemplary damages is proper.
Art. 1170 of the Civil Code provides that “those who in the performance of their obligations are guilty of fraud, negligence or delay, and those who in any manner contravene the tenor thereof, are liable for damages.” Art. 2176 also provides that “whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done.”
The petitioner’s act or omission, which amounted to gross negligence, was precisely the cause of the suffering private respondents had to undergo. Art. 2217 of the Civil Code states: “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 results of the defendant’s wrongful act or omission.”
Then, the award of P16,000.00 as compensatory damages to Sofia representing the expenses she incurred when she came to the Philippines from the United States to testify before the trial court. Had petitioner not been remiss in performing its obligation, there would have been no need for this suit or for her testimony. The award of exemplary damages by the trial court is likewise justified for each of the private respondents, as a warning to all telegram companies to observe due diligence in transmitting the messages of their customers.
* Case digest by Kristine Camille Gahuman, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018