Moral damages: Compensation Amount for Wounded Feelings

Moral damages - legalaspects.ph

Moral damages include the “physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation, and similar injury.”[1]

While they cannot be specifically known as to the amount or compensation/recompense, moral damages may be recovered in a case once it is shown that they are the “proximate result” of the defendant’s wrongful act or omission.[2]

In the pecuniary computation, the “sentimental value” of the property (real or personal) may be considered[3], especially if there is a finding of willful injury to property.[4] Moral damages may also be awarded for breaches of contract where the defendant acted fraudulently or in bad faith.[5]

Keirulf v. Court of Appeals
G.R. Nos. 99301, 99343, 13 March 1997

A husband claimed for moral damages against PANTRANCO on the ground that he and her wife’s right to marital consortium was diminished due to the disfigurement of her wife arising from a collision accident with a bus owned by the corporation.

HELD: The husband was not awarded moral damages since his claim is not supported by evidence; he did not testify. It is essential that the claimant satisfactorily establish the factual basis for moral damages and its causal connection to defendant’s acts.

NB: An earlier jurisprudence (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/her spouse, that spouse has suffered a direct and real personal loss. The loss is immediate and consequential rather than remote and unforeseeable, if it is personal to the spouse and separate and distinct from that of the injured person.”

Lopez v. Pan American World Airways
(supra)

Plaintiffs were entitled to moral damages as they are recoverable “in breach of contracts where the defendant acted fraudulently or in bad faith.”  Plaintiffs suffered, among others, social humiliation when they were compelled to travel as such. “As a proximate result of defendant’s breach in bad faith of its contracts with plaintiffs, the latter suffered social humiliation, wounded feelings, serious anxiety and mental anguish. For plaintiffs were travelling with first class tickets issued by defendant and yet they were given only the tourist class. At stop-overs, they were expected to be among the first-class passengers by those awaiting to welcome them, only to be found among the tourist passengers. It may not be humiliating to travel as tourist passengers; it is humiliating to be compelled to travel as such, contrary to what is rightfully to be expected from the contractual undertaking.”

Senator Lopez, who was traveling with his family, was then the Senate President Pro Tempore. “International carriers like defendant know the prestige of such an office. For the Senate is not only the Upper Chamber of the Philippine Congress, but the nation’s treaty-ratifying body. It may also be mentioned that in his aforesaid office Senator Lopez was in a position to preside in impeachment cases should the Senate sit as Impeachment Tribunal. And he was former Vice-President of the Philippines. Senator Lopez was going to the United States to attend a private business conference of the Binalbagan-Isabela Sugar Company; but his aforesaid rank and position were by no means left behind, and in fact he had a second engagement awaiting him in the United States: a banquet tendered by Filipino friends in his honor as Senate President Pro Tempore… For the moral damages sustained by him, therefore, an award of P100,000.00 is appropriate.”

Mrs. Lopez is also entitled to moral damages. “Mrs. Maria J. Lopez, as wife of Senator Lopez, shared his prestige and therefore his humiliation. In addition she suffered physical discomfort during the 13-hour trip, (5 hours from Tokyo to Honolulu and 8 hours from Honolulu to San Francisco). Although Senator Lopez stated that ‘she was quite well’…. he obviously meant relatively well, since the rest of his statement is that two months before, she was attacked by severe flu and lost 10 pounds of weight and that she was advised by Dr. Sison to go to the United States as soon as possible for medical check-up and relaxation… In fact, Senator Lopez stated, as shown a few pages after in the transcript of his testimony, that Mrs. Lopez was sick when she left the Philippines.”

Evidently, Mrs. Lopez suffered physical discomfort during the long trip. “It is not hard to see that in her condition then a physical discomfort sustained for thirteen hours may well be considered a physical suffering. And even without regard to the noise and trepidation inside the plane — which defendant contends, upon the strengh of expert testimony, to be practically the same in first class and tourist class — the fact that the seating spaces in the tourist class are quite narrower than in first class, there being six seats to a row in the former as against four to a row in the latter, and that in tourist class there is very little space for reclining in view of the closer distance between rows… will suffice to show that the aforesaid passenger indeed experienced physical suffering during the trip. Added to this, of course, was the painful thought that she was deprived by defendant — after having paid for and expected the same — of the most suitable, place for her, the first class, where evidently the best of everything would have been given her, the best seat, service, food and treatment. Such difference in comfort between first class and tourist class is too obvious to be recounted, is in fact the reason for the former’s existence, and is recognized by the airline in charging a higher fare for it and by the passengers in paying said higher rate. Accordingly, considering the totality of her suffering and humiliation, an award to Mrs. Maria J. Lopez of P50,000.00 for moral damages will be reasonable.”

Meanwhile, Mr. and Mrs. Alfredo Montelibano, Jr., were travelling as immediate members of the family of Senator Lopez. They likewise shred in the Senator’s prestige and humiliation. “Although defendant contends that a few weeks before the flight they had asked their reservations to be charged from first class to tourist class – which did not materialize due to alleged full booking in the tourist class – the same does not mean they suffered no shared in having to take tourist class during the flight. For by that time they had already been made to pay for first class seats and therefore to expect first class accommodations. As stated, it is one thing to take the tourist class by free choice; a far different thing to be compelled to take it notwithstanding having paid for first class seats. Plaintiffs-appellants now ask P37,500.00 each for the two but we note that in their motion for reconsideration filed in the court a quo, they were satisfied with P25,000.00 each for said persons… For their social humiliation, therefore, the award to them of P25,000.00 each is reasonable.

 

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[1] CIVIL CODE. Article 2217.

[2] Ibid. 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 (Article 2219, Ibid.).

[3] Ibid. Article 2218.

[4] Ibid. Article 2220.

[5] Ibid.