What are ‘damages’ under Philippine law?
‘Damages’ is a term defined by the Supreme Court in the case of MEA Builders, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 121484, 31 January 2005, as the sum of money which the law awards or imposes as a pecuniary compensation, a recompense, or satisfaction for an injury done or a wrong sustained as a consequence either of a breach of a contractual obligation or a tortious act.
In Julita Robleza vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. L-80364, 28 June 1989, the Supreme Court ratiocinated why damages may be recovered, to wit:
“The law on damages is merely intended to repair the damage done by putting the plaintiff in the same position, as far as pecuniary compensation can do, that he would be had the damage not been inflicted and the wrong not committed.”
What court has exclusive original jurisdiction in an action for recovery of damages?
In an action for the recovery of damages, the court that has jurisdiction depends upon the total amount of the damages claimed. Where the claim for damages is the main cause of action or one of the causes of action, the amount of the claim shall be considered in determining the jurisdiction of the court.
The Metropolitan Trial Courts (MeTC) shall have exclusive jurisdiction over an action for the recovery of damages where the total amount of the damages claimed does not exceed Four hundred thousand pesos (P400, 000.00).
The Municipal Trial Court (MTC), Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Municipal Circuit Trial Court (MCTC) shall have exclusive jurisdiction over payment of money where the value of the claim does not exceed Three hundred thousand pesos (P300, 000.00).
If it exceeds the jurisdictional amount (Four hundred thousand pesos (P400, 000.00) in MeTCs, and Three hundred thousand pesos (P300, 000.00) in MTCs, MTCCs, and MCTCs), the Regional Trial Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction. However, a civil action for damages due to libel can only be instituted either in Regional Trial Court of the place where the public officer holds office or in the place where the alleged libelous article was printed and first published; and if the offended parties are private individuals, the venue shall be in the Regional Trial Court of the place where the libelous article was printed and first published or where any of the offended parties actually resides at the time of the commission of the offense.
An action for the recovery of damages is a civil action. A civil action is defined as one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong
An action for the recovery of damages is a personal action. Such action shall be commenced or tried where the plaintiff or any of the principal plaintiffs reside or any of the defendants reside, or if a non-resident defendant, where he may be found at the election of the plaintiff.
What are the Kinds of Damages awarded by Philippine courts?
In Philippine laws, there are six kinds of damages. Under Article 2197 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, damages may be one of the following:
- Actual or compensatory;
- Temperate or moderate;
- Liquidated; or
- Exemplary or corrective.
Actual or Compensatory Damages
Article 2199 of the new Civil Code provides that, “except as provided by law or by stipulation, one is entitled to an adequate compensation only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. Such compensation is referred to as actual or compensatory damages. He who claims actual or compensatory damages must establish and prove by competent evidence actual pecuniary loss.
Actual or compensatory damages are those awarded in satisfaction of, or in recompense for, loss or injury sustained. They simply make good or replace the loss caused by the wrong. (Mariano Mendoza vs. Leonora Gomez, G.R. No. 160110, June 18, 2014)
Moral damages are awarded to enable the injured party to obtain means, diversions or amusements that will serve to alleviate the moral suffering he has undergone, by reason of the defendant’s culpable action. (Kierulf vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 99301, 13 March 1997)
The provisions of the new Civil Code on moral damages state:
“Art. 2217. Moral damages include physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shocks, social humiliation, and similar injury. Though incapable of pecuniary computation, moral damages may be recovered if they are the proximate result of the defendant’s wrongful act or omission.
Art. 2219. Moral damages may be recovered in the following and analogous cases:
(1) A criminal offense resulting in physical injuries;
(2) Quasi-delicts causing physical injuries;
(3) Seduction, abduction, rape, or other lascivious acts;
(4) Adultery or concubinage;
(5) Illegal or arbitrary detention or arrest;
(6) Illegal search;
(7) Libel, slander or any other form of defamation;
(8) Malicious prosecution;
(9) Acts mentioned in article 309;
(10) Acts and actions referred to in articles 21, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34, and 35.
The parents of the female seduced, abducted, raped, or abused, referred to in No. 3 of this article, may also recover moral damages. The spouse, descendants, ascendants, and brothers and sister may bring action mentioned in No. 9 of this article, in the order named.
Art. 2220. Willful injury to property may be legal ground for awarding moral damages if the court should find that, under the circumstances, such damages are justly due. The same rule applies to breaches of contract where the defendant acted fraudulently or in bad faith.
In the case of Oscar Ventanilla vs. Gregorio Centeno, G.R. No. L-14333, 28 January 1961, the Supreme Court elucidated the recovery of moral damages, to wit:
“Moral damages are recoverable only when physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shocks, social humiliation, and similar injury are the proximate result of a criminal offense resulting in physical injuries, quasi-delicts causing physical injuries, seduction, abduction, rape or other lascivious acts, adultery or concubinage, illegal or arbitrary detention or arrest, illegal search, libel, slander or any other form of defamation, malicious prosecution, disrespect for the dead or wrongful interference with funerals, violation of specific provisions of the Civil Code on human relations, and willful injury to property. To this we may add that where a mishap occurs resulting in the death of a passenger being transported by a common carrier, the spouse, descendants and ascendants of the deceased passenger are entitled to demand moral damages for mental anguish by reason of the passenger’s death.”
Under Article 2224 of the New Civil Code, temperate damages may be recovered when pecuniary loss has been suffered but the amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proven with certainty. In such cases, the amount of the award is left to the discretion of the courts, according to the circumstances of each case, but the same should be reasonable, bearing in mind that temperate damages should be more than nominal but less than compensatory. (Republic of the Philippines vs. Alberto Looyuko, G.R. No. 170966, 22 June 2016)
Exemplary or Corrective Damages
Article 2229 of the Civil Code provides that exemplary or corrective damages are imposed, by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages. Article 2231 of the same Code further states that in quasi-delicts, exemplary damages may be granted if the defendant acted with gross negligence. (Mariano Mendoza vs. Leonora Gomez, G.R. No. 160110, June 18, 2014)
Under Article 2221 of the Civil Code, nominal damages may be awarded in order that the plaintiff’s right, which has been violated or invaded by the defendant, may be vindicated or recognized, and not for the purpose of indemnifying the plaintiff for any loss suffered. Nominal damages are recoverable where a legal right is technically violated and must be vindicated against an invasion that has produced no actual present loss of any kind or where there has been a breach of contract and no substantial injury or actual damages whatsoever have been or can be shown. (Seven Brothers Shipping Corporation vs. DMC-Construction Resources, Inc., G.R. No. 193914, 26 November 2014)
Article 2221 of the new Civil Code provides:
“Nominal damages are adjudicated in order that a right of the plaintiff, which has been violated or invaded by the defendant, may be vindicated or recognized, and not for the purpose of indemnifying the plaintiff for any loss suffered by him.” The assessment of nominal damages is left to the discretion of the court, according to the circumstances of the case.
Under Article 2226 of the Civil Code, liquidated damages are those agreed upon by the parties to a contract, to be paid in case of breach thereof. The parties to a contract are allowed to stipulate on liquidated damages to be paid in case of breach. It is attached to an obligation in order to ensure performance and has a double function: (1) to provide for liquidated damages, and (2) to strengthen the coercive force of the obligation by the threat of greater responsibility in the event of breach. The amount agreed upon answers for damages suffered by the owner due to delays in the completion of the project. As a pre-condition to such award, however, there must be proof of the fact of delay in the performance of the obligation. (Atlantic Erectors, Inc., vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 170732, 11 October 2012)
The liability for liquidated damages is governed by Articles 2226-2228 of the Civil Code which provide:
“Article 2226. Liquidated damages are those agreed upon by the parties to a contract, to be paid in case of breach thereof.
Article 2227. Liquidated damages, whether intended as an indemnity or a penalty, shall be equitably reduced if they are iniquitous or unconscionable.
Article 2228. When the breach of the contract committed by the defendant is not the one contemplated by the parties in agreeing upon the liquidated damages, the law shall determine the measure of damages, and not the stipulation.”
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