What are some of the things that gives rise to the right to collect damages?
Looking at the law, there is no one provision that gives the source of damages, but on the top of my head:
1. Crimes- steal from someone gives the thief the obligation to return the thing whenever possible
2. Breaches of Contract- reneg on an obligation, the one damaged or injured has the right to recover.
3. Negligence- unintentionally hurt or kill someone by negligence entitles the one injured or the heirs of the one killed to damages
What are the different kinds of damages recoverable under our laws?
According to Article 2197 of the Civil Code, they are:
1. Actual or compensatory
4. Temperate or moderate
6. Exemplary or corrective
(Remember this mnemonic: MANTLE; reverse the M and the A, you got it in order)
What is actual or compensatory damages?
These are compensation, restitution and/or reparation of the exact loss or injury suffered. It is adequate compensation only for such pecuniary (monetary) loss suffered by a person that he has duly proved.
Note that it has to be:
1. The actual or exact loss or injury one has suffered in money terms; and
2. Such actual or exact loss or injury must be proved.
Can you give an example?
Sure. Someone got killed in a stampede. The loss of life (which I think is still pegged at P50,000.00, without need of proof) and the hospital and funeral cost is collectible from the one responsible as actual damages, provided they produce the hospital and funeral receipts.
Loss of income as a result of the death is likewise demandable as actual damages. For that, one has to produce current payslips, etc. and multiplied by productive life expectancy (the actuaries may be in a better position to explain this).
What about this thing called moral damages?
Moral damages include physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, 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 for omission. (Article 2217, Civil Code)
For this, there is no need for proof and would really depend on the one injured. You can even say there is no price for that kind of suffering endured. For this a plaintiff or injured party can testify in court:
“I suffered sleepless nights and anxiety as a result of that stampede. And if I can put a price to it, it will be twenty five gazzzillion pesos.”
Yes, the sky is the limit. Be careful of what you aspire for, though. Your “anxiety” will be tempered by the amount of filing fees you will pay (depends on the amount you are seeking) and shall be tempered by the court if unconscionable.
What about nominal damages?
It is simply damages awarded merely to acknowledge a right which has been violated or invaded by the defendant, may be vindicated or recognized. It is not awarded to compensate or indemnify someone for the injuries or damages suffered because of the violation of such a right.
That seems quite vague. Can you give an example?
Sure. A person enjoying the privacy of his home when a botched raid swooped over him, causing damage to his house. Nominal damages may be awarded to him merely to recognize his right to privacy. But the damage to his house is covered by actual damages.
Usually, nominal damages is limited to one peso.
What are temperate damages?
According to Article 2224 of the Civil Code, temperate or moderate damages, which are more than nominal but less than compensatory damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount can not, from the nature of the case, be provided with certainty.
These are damages that are incapable of pecuniary estimation. Of course, this cannot co-exist with liquidated damages, but must be reasonable in all cases.
For example: someone proved that he is entitled to actual damages but failed to prove the amount, the court may award reasonable temperate damages since he proved he was entitled to compensation but could not estimate the amount; or damages for the loss of something that has more of a sentimental value than an actual monetary value
So why can’t temperate damages co-exist with liquidated damages in the same case? What is liquidated damages anyway?
Liquidated damages are those agreed upon by the parties to a contract, to be paid in case of breach thereof. It is a contractually pre-arranged and pre-agreed amount of damages in case of breach.
Examples of this type of damages are construction contracts where the parties agree on a certain amount payable to another in case of contract violations (like in construction delay in an amount per day of delay)
Now what is this thing called exemplary or corrective damages?
In other jurisdictions, this is called “punitive damages,” damages awarded by the court to teach the one liable a lesson, a punishment of sorts. In the United States, we’re talking in outrageous amounts.
According to Article 2229 of the Civil Code, exemplary or corrective damages are imposed, by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to the moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages.
In the stampede, this may be the motherlode… er the bulk of the money that will be paid by those responsible for that tragedy.
I have to stop. Suddenly, I lost my appetite…