Bar Q and A #46

FX Airlines committed breach of contract when it upgraded DT and MT, over their objections, to First Class because they had contracted for Business Class passage. However, although there is a breach of contract, DT and MT are entitled to actual damages only for such pecuniary losses suffered by them as a result of such breach. There seems to be no showing that they incurred such pecuniary loss. There is no showing that the pain in DT's arm and wrist resulted directly from the carrier's acts complained of. Hence, they are not entitled to actual damages. Moreover, DT could have avoided the alleged injury by requesting the airline staff to do the luggage transfer as a matter of duty on their part. There is also no basis to award moral damages for such breach of contract because the facts of the problem do not show bad faith or fraud on the part of the airline. (Cathay Pacific v. Vazquez, G.R. No. 150843, March 14, 2003) However, they may recover moral damages if the cause of action is based on Art. 21 for the humiliation and embarrassment they felt when the stewardess threatened to offload them if they did not avail of the upgrade.

Yes, the action will prosper. Art. 2201entitles the person to recover damages which may be attributed to non-performance of an obligation. In Alitalia Airways v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 77011, July 24, 1990), when an airline issues ticket to a passenger confirmed on a particular flight, a contract of carriage arises and the passenger expects that he would fly on that day. When the airline deliberately overbooked, it took the risk of having to deprive some passengers of their seat in case all of them would show up. For the indignity and inconvenience of being refused the confirmed seat, said passenger is entitled to moral damages. In the given problem, spouses Almeda had a booked roundtrip business class ticket with Pinoy Airlines. When their tickets were upgraded to first class without their consent, Pinoy Airlines breached the contract. As ruled in Zulueta v. Pan American (G.R. No. L- 28589, January 8, 1973), in case of overbooking, airline is in bad faith. Therefore, spouses Almeda are entitled to damages.

1. Yes, Rommel may be held liable for damages if he fails to prove that he exercised the diligence of a good father of a family (Art. 2180, par 5) in selecting and supervising his family driver. The owner is presumed liable unless he proves the defense of diligence. If the driver was performing his assigned task when the accident happened, Rommel shall be solidarily liable with the driver.

In case the driver is convicted of reckless imprudence and cannot pay the civil liability, Rommel is subsidiarily liable for the damage awarded against the driver and the defense of diligence is not available.

2. Yes, my answer would be the same. Rommel, who was in the car, shall be liable for damages if he could have prevented the misfortune by the use of due diligence in supervising his driver but failed to exercise it. (Art. 2184) In such case, his liability is solidary with his driver.

No, the trial court is not correct in awarding moral and exemplary damages. The damages in this case are prayed for based on the breach of contract committed by RPP in failing to deliver the sum of money to Paula. Under the provisions of the Civil Code, in breach of contract, moral damages may be recovered when the defendant acted in bad faith or was guilty of gross negligence (amounting to bad faith) or in wanton disregard of his contractual obligation. In the same fashion, to warrant the award of exemplary damages, the wrongful act must be accomplished by bad faith, and an award of damages would be allowed only if the guilty party acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless or malevolent manner. (Art. 2232, CC)

Bad faith does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence. It imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of a wrong, a breach of known duty through some motive or interest or ill will that partakes of the nature of fraud. In this case, however, RPP’s breach was due to a computer glitch which at most can be considered as negligence on its part, but definitely does not constitute bad faith or fraud as would warrant the award of moral and exemplary damages.

No, the spouses cannot recover actual damages in the form of indemnity for the loss of life of the unborn child. This is because the unborn child is not yet considered a person and the law allows indemnity only for loss of life of person. The mother, however may recover damages for the bodily injury she suffered from the loss of the fetus which is considered part of her internal organ. The parents may also recover damages for injuries that are inflicted directly upon them, e.g., moral damages for mental anguish that attended the loss of the unborn child. Since there is gross negligence, exemplary damages can also be recovered. (Geluz v. CA, G.R. No. L-16439, July 20, 1961)

Yes, based on quasi-delict under the human relations provisions of the New Civil Code (Arts. 19, 20 and 21) because the act committed by the lessor is contrary to morals. Moral damages are recoverable under Art. 2219 (10) in relation to Art. 21. Although the action is based on quasi- delict and not on contract, actual damages may be recovered if the lessee is able to prove the losses and expenses she suffered.