Civil Law

Beatriz Wassmer vs Francisco Velez

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G.R. No. L-20089 – 12 SCRA 648 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Article 21 of the Civil Code – Moral Damages – Exemplary Damages – Breach of Promise to Marry

In 1954, Francisco Velez and Beatriz Wassmer planned their marriage. They decided to schedule it on September 4, 1954. And so Wassmer made preparations such as: making and sending wedding invitations, bought her wedding dress and other apparels, and other wedding necessities. But 2 days before the scheduled day of wedding, Velez sent a letter to Wassmer advising her that he will not be able to attend the wedding because his mom was opposed to said wedding. And one day before the wedding, he sent another message to Wassmer advising her that nothing has changed and that he will be returning soon. However, he never returned.

This prompted Wassmer to file a civil case against Velez. Velez never filed an answer and eventually judgment was made in favor of Wassmer. The court awarded exemplary and moral damages in favor of Wassmer.

On appeal, Velez argued that his failure to attend the scheduled wedding was because of fortuitous events. He further argued that he cannot be held civilly liable for breaching his promise to marry Wassmer because there is no law upon which such an action may be grounded. He also contested the award of exemplary and moral damages against him.

ISSUE: Whether or not the award of damages is proper.

HELD: Yes. The defense of fortuitous events raised by Velez is not tenable and also unsubstantiated. It is true that a breach of promise to marry per se is not an actionable wrong. However, in this case, it was not a simple breach of promise to marry. Because of such promise, Wassmer made preparations for the wedding. Velez’s unreasonable withdrawal from the wedding is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy. Wassmer’s cause of action is supported under Article 21 of the Civil Code which provides in part “any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage.

And under the law, any violation of Article 21 entitles the injured party to receive an award for moral damages as properly awarded by the lower court in this case. Further, the award of exemplary damages is also proper. Here, the circumstances of this case show that Velez, in breaching his promise to Wassmer, acted in wanton, reckless, and oppressive manner – this warrants the imposition of exemplary damages against him.

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