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Grand Union Supermarket and Nelia Santos Fandino vs. Jose Espino Jr.

Facts
 In the morning of 22 August 1970, Jose Espino, Jr., a civil engineer and an executive of Procter and Gamble
Philippines Inc. and his wife and their 2 daughters went to shop at the defendants’ South Supermarket in
Makati. While his wife was shopping at the groceries section, plaintiff browsed around the other parts of the
market.
o Finding a cylindrical “rat tail” file which he needed in his hobby and had been wanting to buy, plaintiff
picked up that item from one of the shelves. He held it in his hand thinking that it might be lost, because
of its tiny size, if he put it in his wife’s grocery cart.
o In the course of their shopping, plaintiff saw the maid of plaintiff’s aunt. While talking to this maid,
plaintiff stuck the file into the front breast pocket of his shirt with a good part of the merchandise
exposed.
 At the check-out counter, the plaintiff paid for his wife’s purchases but he forgot to pay for the file. As he was
leaving by the exit of the supermarket on his way to his car, carrying two bags of groceries and accompanied by
his wife and two daughter, plaintiff was approached by a uniformed guard of the supermarket who said: “Excuse
me, Mr., I think you have something in your pocket which you have not paid for.”
o Suddenly reminded of the file, he apologized and turned back toward the cashier. But the guard stopped
him and led him instead toward the rear of the supermarket. The plaintiff protested but the guard was
firm saying: “No, Mr., please come with me. It is the procedure of the supermarket to bring people that
we apprehend to the back of the supermarket”.
 As he was being ushered into a cubicle, a crowd of customers saw him. The man at the desk pulled out a sheet
of paper asked plaintifff’s name, age and residence and personal data. In the “Incident Report”, plaintiff
explained the circumstances. Then, plaintiff and his wife were directed to Nelia Santos-Fandino, who remarked
“Ano, nakaw nanaman ito”. When plaintiff tried to explain, defendant replied: “That is all they say, the people
whom we cause not paying for the goods say. . . They all intended to pay for the things that are found to them”
o Extracting a P5.00 bill from his pocket, plaintiff told Fandino that he was paying for the file whose cost
was P3.85. Fandino reached over and took the P5.00 bill from plaintiff with these words: “We are fining
you P5.00. That is your fine.” Plaintiff was shocked. He and his wife objected vigorously that he was not
a common criminal, and they wanted to get back the P5.00. But Fandino told them that the money
would be given as an incentive to the guards who apprehend pilferers. People were milling around them
and staring at the plaintiff. Plaintiff gave up the discussion. He drew a P50.00 bill and took back the file.
 Respondent’s complaint was founded on Art. 21 in relation to Article 2219 of the New Civil Code and prays for
moral damages, exemplary damages, attorney’s fees and expenses of litigation, costs of the suit and the return
of the P5.00 fine.
o CFI: dismissed the complaint. CA: reversed and granted the damages prayed for.

Issue & Ruling


WON petitioner is liable for damages to respondent. YES
 The totality of the facts and circumstances as found by the Court of Appeals unerringly points to the conclusion
that private respondent did not intend to steal the file and that his act of picking up the file from the open shelf
was not criminal nor done with malice or criminal intent for on the contrary, he took the item with the intention
of buying and paying for it.
o Considering further the personal circumstances of the private respondent, his education, position and
character showing that he is a graduate Mechanical Engineer from U.P. Class 1950, employed as an
executive of Proctor & Gamble Phils., Inc., a corporate manager in charge of motoring and warehousing
therein; honorably discharged from the Philippine Army in 1946; a Philippine government pensionado of
the United States for six months; member, of the Philippine Veterans Legion; author of articles
published in the Manila Sunday Times and Philippines Free Press; member of the Knights of Columbus,
Council No. 3713; son of the late Jose Maria Espino, retired Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs at
the Philippine Embassy, Washington, We are fully convinced, as the trial and appellate courts were, that
private respondent did not intend to steal the article costing P3.85.
 The false accusation charged against the private respondent after detaining and interrogating him by the
uniformed guards and the mode and manner in which he was subjected shouting at him, imposing upon him a
fine, threatening to call the police and in the presence and hearing of many people at the Supermarket which
brought and caused him humiliation and embarrassment, sufficiently rendered the petitioners liable for
damages under Articles 19 and 21 in relation to Article 2219 of the Civil Code.
o Petitioners wilfully caused loss or in jury to private respondent in a manner that was contrary to morals,
good customs or public policy. It is against morals, good customs and public policy to humiliate,
embarrass and degrade the dignity of a person. Everyone must respect the dignity, personality, privacy
and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons (Article 26, Civil Code). And one must act with
justice, give everyone his due and observe honesty and good faith (Article 19, Civil Code).
 Respondent entitled to damages but 75k for moral damages and 25k for exemplary is unconscionable and
excessive. While no proof of pecuniary loss is necessary in order that moral, nominal, temperate, liquidated or
exemplary damages may be adjudicated, the assessment of such damages, except liquidated ones, is left to the
discretion of the court, according to the circumstances of each case (Art. 2216, New Civil Code).
o In this case, there is no question that the whole incident that befell respondent had arisen in such a
manner that was created unwittingly by his own act of forgetting to pay for the file. It was his
forgetfullness in checking out the item and paying for it that started the chain of events which led to his
embarassment and humiliation, thereby causing him mental anguish, wounded feelings and serious
anxiety. Yet, private respondent’s act of omission contributed to the occurrence of his injury or loss and
such contributory negligence is a factor which may reduce the damages that private respondent may
recover (Art. 2214, New Civil Code).
o Moral damages of 5k is proper. Atty’s fees is reduced from 5k to 2k. Considering that exemplary
damages are awarded for wanton acts, that they are penal in character granted not by way of
compensation but as a punishment to the offender and as a warning to others as a sort of deterrent, We
hold that the facts and circumstances of the case at bar do not warrant the grant of exemplary damages.