G.R. No. 150487. July 10, 2003
GERARDO F. SAMSON JR., Petitioner, vs. BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Gross negligence of a bank in the handling of its clients deposit amounts to bad faith that calls for an award of moral damages. Credit is very important to businessmen, and its loss or impairment needs to be recognized and compensated.
Before us is a Petition for Review1 under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, seeking to set aside the March 30, 2001 Decision2 and the October 22, 2001 Resolution3 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-GR CV No. 54599. The dispositive portion of the assailed Decision reads as follows:
WHEREFORE, foregoing premises considered, the Decision appealed
from is AFFIRMED WITH A MODIFICATION that
the award of moral damages is reduced to
The assailed Resolution denied the Motions for Reconsideration filed by the parties.
The CA summarized the antecedents of the case as follows:
Gerardo F. Samson, Jr. filed an action for damages against the Bank of the Philippine Islands.
In his complaint, [petitioner] avers, inter alia that he is a client/depositor of [respondent] with
Savings Account No. 3085-0125-75 through the [respondents] Express Teller System[,]
a 24-hour banking service; that on August 20, 1990, [petitioner] deposited to
his BPI account a Prudential Bank Check No. 209116 in the amount of Three
Thousand Five Hundred Pesos (
In its Answer, [respondent] Bank denied all the material allegations in the [C]omplaint and alleged among others, that the [C]omplaint fails to state a cause of action; that [petitioner] has violated the provisions of the covering contract of deposit which provides that representatives are not allowed to contract business on the account on behalf of the depositor; that [petitioners] claim has been paid, waived and extinguished; that [petitioner] by his inaction in reporting the loss of his check deposit, is estopped from claiming damages from defendant.
After trial on the merits, the trial court rendered [a Decision in favor of petitioner].5
Ruling of the Court of Appeals
The CA affirmed the ruling of the trial court, but modified the amount of damages. It held that since the banking business was affected with public interest, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) was required to exercise a high degree of care with respect to the accounts of its clients. Thus, the bank was rendered liable by its negligence resulting in damage to its depositor.
Since it was undisputed that BPI had lost the check of
petitioner, the appellate court reviewed the evidence and held that respondent
bank was grossly negligent in its failure to observe the required degree of
This gross negligence on the part
of BPI amounted to bad faith that entitled petitioner to moral damages.
The moral damages of
Hence, this Petition.6
In his Memorandum, petitioner submits the following issues for the Courts consideration:
Whether the reduction of the award of moral damages to Php50,000.00, a mere one-fourth of the moral damages awarded by the trial court, was proper.
Assuming that Respondent BPI is not precluded from raising this defense in this appeal, whether petitioner was negligent in demanding the return of his deposit, which was lost through the banks gross negligence and inaction.7cräläwvirtualibräry
In sum, the main issue in this case is whether the CA erred in
reducing the award of moral damages from
The Courts Ruling
The Petition is partly meritorious.
Amount of Moral Damages
Moral damages are meant to compensate the claimant for any physical suffering, mental anguish, fright, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, social humiliation and similar injuries unjustly caused.8 Although incapable of pecuniary estimation, the amount must somehow be proportional to and in approximation of the suffering inflicted.9 Moral damages are not punitive in nature10 and were never intended to enrich the claimant at the expense of the defendant.11cräläwvirtualibräry
There is no hard-and-fast rule in determining what would be a fair and reasonable amount of moral damages, since each case must be governed by its own peculiar facts.12 Trial courts are given discretion in determining the amount, with the limitation that it should not be palpably and scandalously excessive.13 Indeed, it must be commensurate to the loss or injury suffered.14cräläwvirtualibräry
In the present case, petitioner bases his claim on the failure of
respondent to credit the sum of
Moral damages are awarded to achieve a spiritual status quo, thus:
Moral damages are awarded to enable the injured party to obtain means, diversions or amusements that will serve to alleviate the moral suffering he/she has undergone, by reason of the defendants culpable action. Its award is aimed at restoration, as much as possible, of the spiritual status quo ante; thus, it must be proportionate to the suffering inflicted. Since each case must be governed by its own peculiar circumstances, there is no hard and fast rule in determining the proper amount. x x x.16cräläwvirtualibräry
The social standing of the aggrieved party is essential to the determination of the proper amount of the award. Otherwise, the goal of enabling him to obtain means, diversions, or amusements to restore him to the status quo ante would not be achieved.
We believe that the award should be increased to
That petitioner reported the missing check deposit to respondent only after three weeks did not constitute contributory negligence. The injury resulted from the denial of his withdrawal due to insufficient funds, an injury he suffered before learning that his check deposit had been lost. Respondent, not he, immediately knew that a deposit envelop was missing, yet it did nothing to solve the problem. His alleged delay in reporting the matter did not at all contribute to his injury.
Though the amount of
In Prudential Bank v. CA,17
National Bank v. CA18 and Metropolitan Bank v. Wong,19
the Court consistently awarded moral damages of
WHEREFORE, the Petition is partly GRANTED and the assailed Decision MODIFIED. The award of moral damages is increased to
Puno, (Chairman), Corona, and Carpio-Morales, JJ., concur.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, J., on official leave.
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