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Torts and Damages Case Digest: Benguet Electric Cooperative, Inc. v. Court of Appeals(1999)

G.R. No. 127326 December 23, 1999
Lessons Applicable: Degrees of Negligence (Torts and Damages)

  • January 14 1985 7:50 amJose Bernardo , who has been managing a market stall for 5 years, together with other meat vendors went to select meat from a jeepney 
    • As he grasped the jeepney bars he suffered from an epileptic seizure and fell to the ground
    • Romeo Pimienta who initially thought he was joking saw him turned black so along with the other vendors they brought him to the hospital where he died shortly from cardio-respiratory arrest
  • The jeepney's antenna got entangled with the open electric wire at the top of the roof of a meat stall
  • February 6 1985: His widow Caridad O. Bernardo and their minor children , Jojo, Jeffrey and Jo-an, all surnamed Bernardo filed for damages against BENECO
    • BENECO filed a third party complaint against the jeepney owner Guillermo Canave, Jr.
  • CA affirmed RTC: favored Bernardo and ordered BENECO to pay the damages
ISSUE: W/N BENECO was solely liable for negligence in the electrocution and death of Bernardo

HELD: YES. AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the P864,000.00 as net income loss is reduced to P675,000.00 and the P100,000.00 as moral damages is also reduced to P50,000.00.
  • BENECO was grossly negligent 
    • violation of the Philippine Electrical Code which requires a minimum vertical clearance of 14 feet from the level of the ground since the wiring crosses a public street - barely 8 or 9 feet
    • another violation: main line connected to the service line was not of rigid conduit wiring but totally exposed without any safety protection
    • failed to detect, much less to repair, for an inexcusably long period of 7 years the uninsulated connection which caused the death of Jose Bernardo 
  • Canave was well within his right to park the vehicle in the said area where there was no showing that any municipal law or ordinance was violated nor that there was any foreseeable danger posed by his act
  • The amount corresponding to the loss of earning capacity is based mainly on two factors: (a) the number of years on the basis of which the damages shall be computed; and, (b) the rate at which the losses sustained by the widow and her children should be fixed. 
  • The amount of exemplary damages need not be pleaded in the complaint because the same cannot be predetermined
  • Exemplary damages are imposed by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages. It is awarded as a deterrent to socially deleterious actions. In quasi-delict, exemplary damages are awarded when the act or omission which caused injury is attended by gross negligence. 
  • Gross negligence 
    • negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to consequences in so far as other persons may be affected
  • moral damages are not intended to enrich the complainant but to serve to obviate his/her spiritual suffering by reason of the culpable action of the defendant