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October 6, 2016

Zulueta vs. Pan American

Facts:
  • Zulueta and his family were passengers of Pan American World Airways travelling from Honolulu to Manila.
  • In one stopover, they were advised that they could disembark for about 30 minutes. 
  • However, Zulueta almost missed the flight because he came late (due to the defective announcing system).
  • He was asked to open his bags but the employees of the airlines found nothing. Later on, he was asked to go out of the plane.
  • He was left at Wake Island and was able to return to the Philippines 2 days after.
  • He filed an action for damages. 



Issue: WON there must be an award for damages. YES

Held:

Award for exemplary damages:
It is urged by the defendant that exemplary damages are not recoverable in quasi-delicts, pursuant to Article 2231 of our Civil Code, except when the defendant has acted with "gross negligence," and that there is no specific finding that it had so acted. It is obvious, however, that in off-loading plaintiff at Wake Island, under the circumstances heretofore adverted to, defendant's agents had acted with malice aforethought and evident bad faith. If "gross negligence" warrants the award of exemplary damages, with more reason is its imposition justified when the act performed is deliberate, malicious and tainted with bad faith. 

Thus, in Lopez v. PANAM, We held:
The rationale behind exemplary or corrective damages is, as the name implies, to provide an example or correction for public good. Defendant having breached its contracts in bad faith, the court, as stated earlier, may award exemplary damages in addition to moral damages (Articles 2229, 2232, New Civil Code.)

Award for moral damages:
In fact, Article 2217 of the Civil Code of the Philippines explicitly provides that "(t)hough incapable of pecuniary computation, moral damages may be recovered if they are the proximate result of the defendant's wrongful act or omission." Hence, "(n)o proof pecuniary loss necessary" — pursuant to Article 2216 of the same Code — "in order that moral ... damages may be adjudicated." And "(t)he assessment of such damages ... is left to the discretion of the court" - said article adds - "according to the circumstances of each case."

From the 1972 case:
The records amply establish plaintiffs' right to recover both moral and exemplary damages. Indeed, the rude and rough reception plaintiff received at the hands of Sitton or Captain Zentner when the latter met him at the ramp ("what in the hell do you think you are? Get on that plane"); the menacing attitude of Zentner or Sitton and the supercilious manner in which he had asked plaintiff to open his bags ("open your bag," and when told that a fourth bag was missing, "I don't give a damn"); the abusive language and highly scornful reference to plaintiffs as monkeys by one of PANAM's employees (who turning to Mrs. Zulueta and Miss Zulueta remarked, "will you pull these three monkeys out of here?"); the unfriendly attitude, the ugly stares and unkind remarks to which plaintiffs were subjected, and their being cordoned by men in uniform as if they were criminals, while plaintiff was arguing with Sitton; the airline officials' refusal to allow plaintiff to board the plane on the pretext that he was hiding a bomb in his luggage and their arbitrary and high-handed decision to leave him in Wake; Mrs. Zulueta's having suffered a nervous breakdown for which she was hospitalized as a result of the embarrassment, insults and humiliations to which plaintiffs were exposed by the conduct of PANAM's employees; Miss Zulueta's having suffered shame, humiliation and embarrassment for the treatment received by her parents at the airport — all these justify an award for moral damages resulting from mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation thereby suffered by plaintiffs.

Citation:
  • Zulueta vs. Pan American
  • G.R. No. L-28589 January 8, 1973
  • G.R. No. L-28589 February 29, 1972

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