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Torts and Damages Case Digest: Kierulf v. CA (1997)

G.R. No. 99301  March 13, 1997

Lessons Applicable: Concept of Moral Damages (Torts and Damages)
Laws Applicable: 

  • February 28, 1987 7:45 pm: Pantranco bus driven by Jose Malanum lost control and swerved to the left flying over the center island occupying the east-bound lane of EDSA.  The front of the bus hit the front of the Isuzu pickup driven by Legaspi smashed to pieces and inflicting physical injury to Legaspi and his passenger Lucila Kierulf. Both were treated at the Quezon City General Hospital
  • The bus also hit and injured a pedestrian who was then crossing EDSA
  • Despite the impact, the bus continued to move forward and its front portion rammed against a Caltex gasoline station, damaging its building and gasoline dispensing equipment
  • RTC: proximate cause was the negligence of the defendant's driver. Pantranco North Express, Incorporated to pay Lucila Kierulf, Victor Kierulf for the damages of the Isuzu pick-up and Porfirio Legaspi
  • CA: Affirmed with modification by adding P25,000 attorney's fees and to pay costs
ISSUE: W/N both Lucila should be awarded moral damages

HELD: YES. AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.  The award of moral damages to Lucila and Legaspi is hereby INCREASED to P400,000.00 and P50,000.00 respectively; exemplary damages to Lucila is INCREASED to P200,000.00.  Legaspi is awarded exemplary damages of P50,000.00

  • Rodriguez case ruled that when a person is injured to the extent that he/she is no longer capable of giving love, affection, comfort and sexual relations to his or her spouse, that spouse has suffered a direct and real personal loss.  The loss is immediate and consequential rather than remote and unforeseeable; it is personal to the spouse and separate and distinct from that of the injured person. Victor's claim for deprivation of his right to consortium, although argued before Respondent Court, is not supported by the evidence on record.
  • The social and financial standing of Lucila cannot be considered in awarding moral damages.  
    • no "rude and rough" reception, no "menacing attitude," no "supercilious manner," no "abusive language and highly scornful reference" was given her
    • awarded only if he or she was subjected to contemptuous conduct despite the offender's knowledge of his or her social and financial standing
  • proper to award moral damages to Lucila for her physical sufferings, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety and wounded feelings
    • She sustained multiple injuries on the scalp, limbs and ribs.  She lost all her teeth.  She had to undergo several corrective operations and treatments.  Despite treatment and surgery, her chin was still numb and thick.  She felt that she has not fully recovered from her injuries.  She even had to undergo a second operation on her gums for her dentures to fit.  She suffered sleepless nights and shock as a consequence of the vehicular accident.
  • Exemplary damages are designed to permit the courts to mould behavior that has socially deleterious consequences, and its imposition is required by public policy to suppress the wanton acts of an offender
    • discretion of the court
    • (1) They may be imposed by way of example or correction only in addition, among others, to compensatory damages, and cannot be recovered as a matter of right, their determination depending upon the amount of compensatory damages that may be awarded to the claimant;
    • (2) the claimant must first establish his right to moral, temporate, liquidated or compensatory damages; and
    • (3) the wrongful act must be accompanied by bad faith, and the award would be allowed only if the guilty party acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive or malevolent manner."
  • exemplary damages awarded increased to P200,000
    • The fact of gross negligence duly proven, we believe that Legaspi, being also a victim of gross negligence, should also receive exemplary damages
  • Moral damages, though incapable of pecuniary estimation, are in the category of an award designed to compensate the claimant for actual injury and are not meant to enrich complainant at the expense of defendant
    • Porfirio that he had been incapacitated for 10 months and that during said period he did not have any income
      • P16,500 as compensation for loss of earning capacity for the period is amply supported by the records and is demandable under Article 2205 of the Civil Code
  • Lucila's claim of loss of earning capacity has not been duly proven
    • A party is entitled to adequate compensation for such pecuniary loss actually suffered and duly proved
      • Mere proof of Lucila's earnings consisting of her 1983 and 1984 income tax returns would not suffice to prove earnings for the years 1985 and 1986.  The incident happened on February 28, 1987.
  • An estimate, as it is categorized, is not an actual expense incurred or to be incurred in the repair.  The reduction made by respondent court is reasonable considering that in this instance such estimate was secured by the complainants themselves
  • in order that moral damages may be awarded, there must be pleading and proof of moral suffering, mental anguish, fright and the like.  While no proof of pecuniary loss is necessary in order that moral damages may be awarded, the amount of indemnity being left to the discretion of the court it is nevertheless essential that the claimant should satisfactorily show the existence of the factual basis of damages and its causal connection to defendant's acts.  This is so because moral damages, though incapable of pecuniary estimation, are in the category of an award designed to compensate the claimant for actual injury suffered and not to impose a penalty on the wrongdoer.
  • Moral damages are awarded to enable the injured party to obtain means, diversions or amusements that will serve to alleviate the moral suffering he/she has undergone, by reason of  the defendant's culpable action.
  • Its award is aimed at restoration, as much as possible, of the spiritual status quo ante; thus, it must be proportionate to the suffering inflicted.  Since each case must be governed by its own peculiar circumstances, there is no hard and fast rule in determining the proper amount.  The yardstick should be that the amount awarded should not be so palpably and scandalously excessive as to indicate that it was the result of passion, prejudice or corruption on the part of the trial judge.  Neither should it be so little or so paltry that it rubs salt to the injury already inflicted on plaintiffs.