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Torts and Damages Case Digest: Fule v. CA (1998)

G.R. No. 112212  March 2, 1998

Lessons Applicable: Factors in determining amount (Torts and Damages)
Laws Applicable: 

  • Gregorio Fule acquired a 10-hectare property in Tanay, Rizal and mortgaged it with Rural Bank of Alaminos  to secure a loan in the amount of P10,000 to secure a loan in the amount of P10,000
  • July 1984: Gregorio Fule asked Remelia Dichoso and Oliva Mendoza to look for a buyer who might be interested in the Tanay property.  Fule was interested to buy the emerald-cut diamond earrings of Dr. Cruz so he tried to negotiate it for a barter but it cannot be ensued since the 1-year redemption period was yet to expire. 
  • To cut through any legal impediment, Fule issued a deed of redemption on behalf of Fr. Jacobe  for P15,987.78 who sold the property to Fule for P75,000
  • Atty. Belarmino to finally execute a deed of absolute sale while Fule signed the deed and gave P13,700 for necessary expenses to be incurred by the transfer.  They also executed a certificate that the actual consideration of the sale was  P200,000 and not P80,000.  The lower value was for the purpose of lowering the capital gains tax.  Since the jewelry was appraised only at P160,000.00, the parties agreed that the balance of P40,000.00 would just be paid later in cash.  For services rendered, Fule paid the agents, Dichoso and Mendoza, the amount of US$300 and some pieces of jewelry
  • Soon, Fule applied the tester and alleged that the jewelry was fake.  He went to Dichoso and Mendoza to take back what she had given them and went to report to the police.
  • Fule filed a complaint to the RTC for the contract of sale over the Tanay property be declared null and void on the ground of fraud and deceit.
  • RTC issued a TRO.
  • RTC: Fule reported it 2 hours later is considered unreasonable delay and finding him with wanton bad faith so award of attorney's fees was warranted. Dra. Cruz runs her own hospital and defendant Belarmino is a well respected legal practitioner so their reputations were besmirched.
  • CA: affirmed
ISSUE: W/N attorney's fees should be awarded.

HELD: YES. CA affirmed. Ordered to pay P40,000 balance.

  • It was in fact Fule who resorted to machinations to convince Dr. Cruz to exchange her jewelry for the Tanay property
  • Moral and exemplary damages may be awarded without proof of pecuniary loss. In awarding such damages, the court shall take into account the circumstances obtaining in the case said assess damages according to its discretion. To warrant the award of damages, it must be shown that the person to whom these are awarded has sustained injury. He must likewise establish sufficient data upon which the court can properly base its estimate of the amount of damages. Statements of facts should establish such data rather than mere conclusions or opinions of witnesses.
  • While, as a rule, moral damages cannot be recovered from a person who has filed a complaint against another in good faith because it is not sound policy to place a penalty on the right to litigate, the same, however, cannot apply in the case at bar. The factual findings of the courts a quo to the effect that petitioner filed this case because he was the victim of fraud; that he could not have been such a victim because he should have examined the jewelry in question before accepting delivery thereof, considering his exposure to the banking and jewelry businesses; and that he filed the action for the nullification of the contract of sale with unclean hands, all deserve full faith and credit to support the conclusion that petitioner was motivated more by ill will than a sincere attempt to protect his rights in commencing suit against respondents.  
  • He had rather placed himself in a situation from which it preponderantly appears that his seeming ignorance was actually just a ruse.  It must be noted that before petitioner was able to convince Dr. Cruz to exchange her jewelry for the Tanay property, petitioner took pains to thoroughly examine said jewelry, even going to the extent of sketching their appearance. Why at the precise moment when he was about to take physical possession thereof he failed to exert extra efforts to check their genuineness despite the large consideration involved has never been explained at all by petitioner. His acts thus failed to accord with what an ordinary prudent man would have done in the same situation. Being an experienced banker and a businessman himself who deliberately skirted a legal impediment in the sale of the Tanay property and to minimize the capital gains tax for its exchange, it was actually gross recklessness for him to have merely conducted a cursory examination of the jewelry when every opportunity for doing so was not denied him. Apparently, he carried on his person a tester which he later used to prove the alleged fakery but which he did not use at the time when it was most needed. Furthermore, it took him two more hours of unexplained delay before he complained that the jewelry he received were counterfeit. Hence, we stated earlier that anything could have happened during all the time that petitioner was in complete possession and control of the jewelry, including the possibility of substituting them with fake ones, against which respondents would have a great deal of difficulty defending themselves. The truth is that petitioner even failed to successfully prove during trial that the jewelry he received from Dr. Cruz were not genuine.