Temperate damages in lieu
of actual damages
We begin by discussing the petitioners’ claim for actual damages arising from the damage inflicted on petitioner Leticia Tan’s house and tailoring shop, taking into account the sewing machines and various household appliances affected. Our basic law tells us that to recover damages there must be pleading and proof of actual damages suffered. As we explained in Viron Transportation Co., Inc. v. Delos Santos:
Actual damages, to be recoverable, must not only be capable of proof, but must actually be proved with a reasonable degree of certainty. Courts cannot simply rely on speculation, conjecture or guesswork in determining the fact and amount of damages. To justify an award of actual damages, there must be competent proof of the actual amount of loss, credence can be given only to claims which are duly supported by receipts.
The petitioners do not deny that they did not submit any receipt to support their claim for actual damages to prove the monetary value of the damage caused to the house and tailoring shop when the truck rammed into them. Thus, no actual damages for the destruction to petitioner Leticia Tan’s house and tailoring shop can be awarded.
Nonetheless, absent competent proof on the actual damages suffered, a party still has the option of claiming temperate damages, which may be allowed in cases where, from the nature of the case, definite proof of pecuniary loss cannot be adduced although the court is convinced that the aggrieved party suffered some pecuniary loss. As defined in Article 2224 of the Civil Code:
Article 2224. 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 proved with certainty.
In Canada v. All Commodities Marketing Corporation, we disallowed the award of actual damages arising from breach of contract, where the respondent merely alleged that it was entitled to actual damages and failed to adduce proof to support its plea. In its place, we awarded temperate damages, in recognition of the pecuniary loss suffered.
The photographs the petitioners presented as evidence show the extent of the damage done to the house, the tailoring shop and the petitioners’ appliances and equipment. Irrefutably, this damage was directly attributable to Arambala’s gross negligence in handling OMC’s truck. Unfortunately, these photographs are not enough to establish the amount of the loss with certainty. From the attendant circumstances and given the property destroyed, we find the amount of P200,000.00 as a fair and sufficient award by way of temperate damages.
Temperate damages in lieu of
loss of earning capacity
Similarly, the CA was correct in disallowing the award of actual damages for loss of earning capacity. Damages for loss of earning capacity are awarded pursuant to Article 2206 of the Civil Code, which states that:
Article 2206. 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[.]
As a rule, documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate the claim for loss of earning capacity. By way of exception, damages for loss of earning capacity may be awarded despite the absence of documentary evidence when: (1) the deceased is self-employed and earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, in which case, judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the deceased’s line of work, no documentary evidence is available; or (2) the deceased is employed as a daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.
According to the petitioners, prior to his death, Celedonio was a self-employed tailor who earned approximately P156,000.00 a year, or P13,000.00 a month. At the time of his death in 1995, the prevailing daily minimum wage was P145.00, or P3,770.00 per month, provided the wage earner had only one rest day per week. Even if we take judicial notice of the fact that a small tailoring shop normally does not issue receipts to its customers, and would probably not have any documentary evidence of the income it earns, Celedonio’s alleged monthly income of P13,000.00 greatly exceeded the prevailing monthly minimum wage; thus, the exception set forth above does not apply.
In the past, we awarded temperate damages in lieu of actual damages for loss of earning capacity where earning capacity is plainly established but no evidence was presented to support the allegation of the injured party’s actual income.
In Pleno v. Court of Appeals, we sustained the award of temperate damages in the amount of P200,000.00 instead of actual damages for loss of earning capacity because the plaintiff’s income was not sufficiently proven.
We did the same in People v. Singh, and People v. Almedilla, granting temperate damages in place of actual damages for the failure of the prosecution to present sufficient evidence of the deceased’s income.
Similarly, in Victory Liner, Inc. v. Gammad, we deleted the award of damages for loss of earning capacity for lack of evidentiary basis of the actual extent of the loss. Nevertheless, because the income-earning capacity lost was clearly established, we awarded the heirs P500,000.00 as temperate damages.
In the present case, the income-earning capacity of the deceased was never disputed. Petitioners Mary Jane Tan, Mary Lyn Tan, Celedonio Tan, Jr., Mary Joy Tan and Mark Allan Tan were all minors at the time the petition was filed on February 4, 2010, and they all relied mainly on the income earned by their father from his tailoring activities for their sustenance and support. Under these facts and taking into account the unrebutted annual earnings of the deceased, we hold that the petitioners are entitled to temperate damages in the amount of P300,000.00 [or roughly, the gross income for two (2) years] to compensate for damages for loss of the earning capacity of the deceased.