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B. Damages in Case of Death


1. CIVIL LIABILITY IN CASE OF DEATH

a. Crime or ex delicto

b. Quasi-delict

Damages for death caused by a crime or quasi-delict may be recovered. (Article 2206, Ibid.)

In our jurisdiction, civil indemnity is awarded to the offended party as a kind of monetary restitution or compensation to the victim for the damage or infraction that was done to the latter by the accused, which in a sense only covers the civil aspect. Thus, in a crime where a person dies, in addition to the penalty of imprisonment imposed to the offender, the accused is also ordered to pay the victim a sum of money as restitution. (Lim v. Tan, G.R. Nos. 177250, 177422, 177676, 28 November 2016)

2. WHAT MAY BE RECOVERED

When death occurs due to a crime, the following may be recovered:

1) Civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim;

2) Actual or compensatory damages;

3) Moral damages;

4) Exemplary damages;

5) Attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation; and

6) Interest, in proper cases. (Lim v. Tan, G.R. Nos. 177250, 177422, 177676, 28 November 2016)

In imposing the proper amount of damages, the principal consideration is the penalty provided by law or imposable for the offense because of its heinousness and not the public penalty actually imposed on the offender. (Ibid.)

NB: Except for civil indemnity ex delicto for the death of the victim, all other damages may also be recovered in case of death due to quasi-delict.

1) Civil indemnity for ex delicto or quasi-delict

In our jurisdiction, civil indemnity is awarded to the offended party as a kind of monetary restitution or compensation to the victim for the damage or infraction that was done to the latter by the accused, which in a sense only covers the civil aspect. Thus, in a crime where a person dies, in addition to the penalty of imprisonment imposed to the offender, the accused is also ordered to pay the victim a sum of money as restitution.

a) Penalty provided by law or imposable by the offense

In imposing the proper amount of damages, the principal consideration is the penalty provided by law or imposable for the offense because of its heinousness and not the public penalty actually imposed on the offender. (Lim v. Tan, supra.)

b) Amount of damages

The amount of damages for death caused by a crime or quasi-delict shall be at least three thousand pesos, even though there may have been mitigating circumstances. In addition:

1) The defendant shall be liable for the loss of the earning capacity of the deceased, and the indemnity shall be paid to the heirs of the latter; such indemnity shall in every case be assessed and awarded by the court, unless the deceased on account of permanent physical disability not caused by the defendant, had no earning capacity at the time of his death;

2) If the deceased was obliged to give support according to the provisions of Article 291, the recipient who is not an heir called to the decedent’s inheritance by the law of testate or intestate succession, may demand support from the person causing the death, for a period not exceeding five years, the exact duration to be fixed by the court;

3) The spouse, legitimate and illegitimate descendants and ascendants of the deceased may demand moral damages for mental anguish by reason of the death of the deceased. (Article 2206, Ibid.)

2) Actual or compensatory damages

For one to be entitled to actual damages, it is necessary to prove the actual amount of loss with a reasonable degree of certainty, premised upon competent proof and the best evidence obtainable by the injured party. (Ibid.)

In one case, for having not been substantiated, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s deletion of the award of actual and compensatory damages which included the loss of earning capacity of the victim is also proper… the Regional Trial Court awarded damages for loss of earning capacity based solely on the deposition of the wife without even requiring other documentary evidence to prove the same. Although the wife testified as to the annual income of the decedent-husband, she failed to substantiate the same by documentary evidence. (Ibid.)

The indemnification for loss of earning capacity partakes of the nature of actual damages which must be duly proven by competent proof and the best obtainable evidence thereof. For loss of income due to death, there must be unbiased proof of the deceased’s average income. Credence can be given only to claims which are duly supported by receipts. Courts cannot simply rely on speculation, conjecture or guesswork in determining the fact and amount of damages. (Ibid.)

a) Temperate damages in lieu of actual damages

According to Article 2224 of the Civil Code, temperate 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 cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty. (Lim v. Tan, supra.)

Thus, the CA properly awarded temperate damages, in lieu of actual damages, considering that the wife was unable to prove the actual expenses incurred by the death of his husband… Here, there is no doubt that pecuniary expenses were incurred in the funeral and burial of Florentino and the award of temperate damages shall answer for the same in the amount of ₱350,000.00, in consideration to the social status and reputation of the victim. (Ibid.)

b) Loss of income v. Loss of earning capacity

The indemnification for loss of earning capacity partakes of the nature of actual damages which must be duly proven by competent proof and the best obtainable evidence thereof. (Ibid.)

(1) Proof of income

GENERAL RULE: For loss of income due to death, there must be unbiased proof of the deceased’s average income. Credence can be given only to claims which are duly supported by receipts. Courts cannot simply rely on speculation, conjecture or guesswork in determining the fact and amount of damages. (Lim v. Tan, supra.)

EXCEPTION: In People v. Sanchez, damages for loss of earning capacity was allowed to the heirs of the victims of rape with homicide despite the lack of sufficient evidence to establish what they would have earned had they not been killed. (Abrogar v. Cosmos Bottling Company, supra.)

Both Sarmenta and Gomez were senior agriculture students at UPLB, the country’s leading educational institution in agriculture. As reasonably assumed by the trial court, both victims would have graduated in due course. Undeniably, their untimely death deprived them of their future time and earning capacity. For these deprivation, their heirs are entitled to compensation. However, considering that Sarmenta and Gomez would have graduated in due time from a reputable university, it would not be unreasonable to assume that in 1993 they would have earned more than the minimum wage. All factors considered, the Court believes that it is fair and reasonable to fix the monthly income that the two would have earned in 1993 at ₱8,000.000 per month (or ₱96,000.00/year) and their deductible living and other incidental expenses at ₱3,000.00 per month (or ₱36,000.00/year). (People v. Sanchez, G.R. Nos. 121039-121045, 18 October 2001)

Compensation for Loss of Earning Capacity. Art. 2206 of the Civil Code provides that in addition to the indemnity for death caused by a crime or quasi delict, the defendant shall be liable for the loss of the earning capacity of the deceased, and the indemnity shall be paid to the heirs of the latter. (Metro Manila Transit Corporation [MMTC] v. CA, G.R. Nos. 116617 and 126395, 16 November 1998)

Compensation of this nature is awarded not for loss of earnings but for loss of capacity to earn money. Evidence must be presented that the victim, if not yet employed at the time of death, was reasonably certain to complete training for a specific profession. (Ibid.)

In People v. Teehankee, no award of compensation for loss of earning capacity was granted to the heirs of a college freshman because there was no sufficient evidence on record to show that the victim would eventually become a professional pilot. But compensation should be allowed for loss of earning capacity resulting from the death of a minor who has not yet commenced employment or training for a specific profession if sufficient evidence is presented to establish the amount thereof. (Ibid.)

Indeed, damages for loss of earning capacity may be awarded to the heirs of a deceased non-working victim simply because earning capacity, not necessarily actual earning, may be lost. (Abrogar v. Cosmos Bottling Company, G.R. No. 164749, 15 March 2017)

In Metro Manila Transit Corporation v. Court of Appeals, damages for loss of earning capacity were granted to the heirs of a third-year high school student of the University of the Philippines Integrated School who had been killed when she was hit and run over by the petitioner’s passenger bus as she crossed Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City. (Ibid.)

In Perena v. Zarate, the Court fixed damages for loss of earning capacity to be paid to the heirs of the 15-year-old high school student of Don Bosco Technical Institute killed when a moving train hit the school van ferrying him to school while it was traversing the railroad tracks. The RTC and the CA had awarded damages for loss of earning capacity computed on the basis of the minimum wage in effect at the time of his death. (Ibid.)

The fact that Aaron was then without a history of earnings should not be taken against his parents and in favor of the defendants whose negligence not only cost Aaron his life and his right to work and earn money, but also deprived his parents of their right to his presence and his services as well… Accordingly, we emphatically hold in favor of the indemnification for Aaron’s loss of earning capacity despite him having been unemployed, because compensation of this nature is awarded not for loss of time or earnings but for loss of the deceased’s power or ability to earn money. (Pereña v. Zarate, G.R. No. 157917, 28 August 2012)

This favorable treatment of the Zarates’ claim is not unprecedented. In Cariaga v. Laguna Tayabas Bus Company and Manila Railroad Company, fourth-year medical student Edgardo Carriaga’s earning capacity, although he survived the accident but his injuries rendered him permanently incapacitated, was computed to be that of the physician that he dreamed to become. The Court considered his scholastic record sufficient to justify the assumption that he could have finished the medical course and would have passed the medical board examinations in due time, and that he could have possibly earned a modest income as a medical practitioner. Also, in People v. Sanchez, the Court opined that murder and rape victim Eileen Sarmienta and murder victim Allan Gomez could have easily landed good-paying jobs had they graduated in due time, and that their jobs would probably pay them high monthly salaries from ₱ 10,000.00 to ₱ 15,000.00 upon their graduation. Their earning capacities were computed at rates higher than the minimum wage at the time of their deaths due to their being already senior agriculture students of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, the country’s leading educational institution in agriculture. (Ibid.)

3) Moral damages

Moral damages are not intended to enrich the victim’s heirs but rather they are awarded to allow them to obtain means for diversion that could serve to alleviate their moral and psychological sufferings. (People v. Sanchez, supra.)

As borne out by human nature and experience, a violent death invariably and necessarily brings about emotional pain and anguish on the part of the victim’s family. In cases of murder, the award of moral damages is mandatory without need of allegation and proof other than the death of the victim. (Ibid.)

4) Exemplary damages

Exemplary damages are awarded in addition to moral damages. (Ibid.)

Under Article 2229 of the Civil Code, exemplary damages are imposed by way of example or correction for the public good. The purpose of exemplary damages is to serve as a deterrent to serious wrong doings and as a vindication of undue sufferings and wanton invasion of the rights of an injured or a punishment for those guilty of outrageous conduct. (Ibid.)

5) Attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation

As a general rule, the parties may stipulate the recovery of attorney’s fees. In the absence of such stipulation, Article 2208 of the Civil Code enumerates the legal grounds which justify or warrant the grant of attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation, and this case qualifies for the first and eleventh reasons why attorney’s fees are awarded, namely: (a) when exemplary damages are awarded; and (b) in any other case where the court deems it just and equitable that attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation should be recovered. (Ibid.)

Considering that the Court has awarded exemplary damages in this case, attorney’s fees can likewise be awarded. Since this case has been hauled on for too long, the Court concurs with the ratiocination of the RTC in awarding attorney’s fees and litigation expenses of ₱150,000.00 and ₱350,000.00, respectively, bearing in mind the legal extent of the work undertaken as well as the length of time that had elapsed to prosecute this case. (Ibid.)

6) Interest

In sum, considering the reputation and social status of the victim at the time of his death, the Court sustains the awarded damages, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses granted by the CA… Lastly, the heirs of the decedent should likewise be granted an interest at the legal rate of six percent (6%) per annum on all the damages awarded from the date of finality of this Decision until fully paid. (Ibid.)

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