California Clothing vs. Quinones (DIGEST)
Regina Via G. Garcia Persons and Family Relations CALIFORNIA CLOTHING, INC. vs. QUIÑONES G.R. No. 175822 (October 23, 2013) A. Legal Facts Respondent, Shirley G. Quiñones, a ticketing agent of Cebu Pacific Air, bought a pair of black jeans worth P2,098.00 from Guess USA Boutique. While she was on her way to Mercury Drug Store, a Guess employee approached her and said that she failed to pay for the black jeans. Nevertheless, she presented an official receipt and suggested that they should talk about the matter in the Cebu Pacific Office located within the mall. While they were in the office, the Guess employees allegedly humiliated her in front of the clients of Cebu Pacific, repeatedly demanded payment and even searched the respondent’s wallet to check how much money she had. Another argument ensued and after that, respondent went home. The Guess employees submitted two letters to the Director of Cebu Pacific narrating the incident but the said letters were not received. Respondent filed a complaint for damages against the petitioners, California Clothing, Inc., Excelsis Villagonzalo, Imelda Hawayon and Michelle S. Ybañez, alleging that due to the incident, she suffered physical anxiety, sleepless nights, mental anguish, fright, serious apprehension, besmirched reputation, moral shock and humiliation. She demanded payment for moral, nominal, and exemplary damages, as well as attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. Petitioners stated that they approached the respondent to clarify whether or not payment was made and that they approached and talked to the respondent in a gentle and polite manner. They sought payment for moral and exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses as counterclaim. The Regional Trial Court dismissed both the complaint and counterclaim stating that the petitioners acted in good faith and the respondent was the one who put herself in that situation by inviting the Guess employees to the Cebu Pacific Office to discuss about the issue of payment. However, the Court of Appeals reversed and set aside the Regional Trial Court decision stating that there was preponderance of evidence showing the petitioners acted in bad faith but, Hawayon and Villagonzalo were absolved from liability due to good faith. Since petitioners acted in bad faith, respondent was entitled to damages and attorney’s fees.
B. Legal Issue Whether or not petitioners acted in bad faith which resulted to the Court of Appeals awarding moral damages and attorney’s fees to respondent, Shirley G. Quiñones.
C. Ruling Yes, petitioners acted in bad faith and the award for moral damages and attorney’s fees to respondent was proper. The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision. The principle of abuse of rights under Article 19 of the Civil Code is present in the case. Respondent complained when petitioners embarrassed her and insisted that she did not pay for the black jeans despite the issuance of an official receipt in her favor. The court cited the case of Carpio vs. Valmonte in which the elements of abuse of rights were enumerated. “The elements of abuse of rights are as follows: (1) there is a legal right or duty; (2) which is exercised in bad faith; (3) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another.” The elements stated are complete in the present case. First, petitioners continued to insist that there was no payment made when respondent already presented the black jeans with the original receipt. Second, they accused the respondent that not only did she fail to pay for the black jeans but she intentionally stole it and quickly left the shop. Third, the letters sent to the respondent’s employer was not only intended to ask for assistance in collection of the payment but also to ruin the respondent’s reputation. The exercise of rights is subject to limitations. Thus, it must be in accordance with the purpose of its establishment and not abused. Respondent was awarded P50,000.00 as moral damages and P20,000.00 as attorney’s fees.