Civil Law

Spouses Cristino and Brigida Custodio vs Court of Appeals

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G.R. No. 116100 – 253 SCRA 483 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Damnum Absque Injuria – Actionable Wrong

Law on Property – Right of Way

Pacifico Mabasa owns a property behind the properties of spouses Cristino and Brigida Custodio and spouses Lito and Ma. Cristina Santos. The passageway leading to Mabasa’s house passes through the properties of the Custodios and the Santoses.

Sometime in 1981, the spouses Lito and Ma. Cristina Santos built a fence around their property. This effectively deprived Mabasa passage to his house. Mabasa then sued the Custodios and the Santoses to compel them to grant him right of way with damages. Mabasa claims that he lost tenants because of the blockade done by the families in front. The trial court ruled in favor of Mabasa. It ordered the Custodios and the Santoses to give Mabasa a permanent easement and right of way and for Mabasa to pay just compensation. The claim for damages by Mabasa was not granted. The Santoses and the Custodios appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court. However, the CA modified the ruling by awarding damages in favor of Mabasa (Actual damages: P65k, Moral damages: P30k, Exemplary damages: P10k).

ISSUE: Whether or not the grant of damages by the CA is proper.

HELD: No. The award is not proper. This is an instance of damnum absque injuria.

There is a material distinction between damages and injury. Injury is the illegal invasion of a legal right; damage is the loss, hurt, or harm which results from the injury; and damages are the recompense or compensation awarded for the damage suffered. Thus, there can be damage without injury in those instances in which the loss or harm was not the result of a violation of a legal duty.

In this case, it is true that Mabasa may have incurred losses (damage) when his tenants left because of the fence made by the Santoses. However, when Santos built the fence, he was well within his right. He built the fence inside his property. There was no existing easement agreement, either by contract or by operation of law, on his property. Hence, Santos has all the right to build the fence. It was only after the judgment in the trial court that the easement was created which was even conditioned on the payment of Mabasa of the just compensation. Santos did not commit a legal injury against Mabasa when he built the fence, therefore, there is no actionable wrong as basis for the award of damages. In this case, the damage has to be borne by Mabasa.

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