Oceaneering Contractors Phils, Inc. vs Nestor N. Barretto

Posted: March 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

Oceaneering Contractors Phils, Inc. vs Nestor N. Barretto, doing business as NNB Lighterage

GR No. 184215, February 9, 2011

 

FACTS:

 

On November 27, 1997, Nestor Barretto and Oceaneering Contractors (Phils.) Inc.  entered into a Time Charter Agreement for the contract price of P306,000.00. Nestor Barretto owns Antonieta, a barge licensed and permitted to engage in coastwise trading. The barge was hired for a renewable period of 30 calendar days for the purpose of transporting construction materials from Manila to Ayungon,Negros Oriental.

 

Oceaneering hired stevedores who loaded the construction materials on the barge. However, the barge capsized while it was transporting the construction materials.

 

Baretto informed Oceaneering that the mishap was caused by the incompetence and negligence of Oceaneering personnel in loading the cargo and that Baretto will proceed with the salvage,refloating and repair of the barge.

 

Oceaneering demanded return of unused portion of the charter payment which amounts to P224,400.00 plus expenses incurred in salvaging its construction materials which amounts to P125,000.00. Barretto reasoned out that its unused charter payment was withheld for he was seeking reimbursement for the amount of P836,425 representing expenses in salvaging, refloating and repairing the barge.

 

Barretto filed a complaint for damages and argued that the accident was due to the incompetence and negligence of employees hired by Oceaneering and who attended the loading of the cargo. Oceaneering, in defense, argued that the accident was caused by the negligence of Barretto’s employees and the dilapidated hull of the barge which rendered it unseaworthy.

 

The Court dismissed Barretto’s complaint and Oceaneering’s counterclaims for lack of merit.

 

On appeal, Oceaneering’s prayer was partially granted holding Barretto liable for Oceaneering’s lost cargo but the CA disallowed Oceaneering’s counterclaims for the value of the construction materials pegged at P4,055,700.00 which were lost as a consequence of the sinking of the barge.

 

Applying the rule that actual damages should be proven with a reasonable degree of certainty, the appellate court denied Oceaneering’s claim for the value of its lost cargo and ordered the refund of the P360,000.00 it paid for the time charter with indemnity for attorney’s fees in the amount of P30,000.00.

 

 

Considering that it was able to salvage nine steel pipes amounting to P351,000.00, Oceaneering insisted that it should be indemnified the sum of P3,703,700.00 for the value of the lost cargo.

 

 

ISSUE:

 

Whether Oceaneering is entitled to the disallowed amount of construction materials pegged at P4,055,700.00 as compensatory damages

 

 

HELD:

 

No to P4,055,700.00 but yes to certain sums as supported by vouchers, receipts,etc..

 

The court finds that CA erred in awarding the full amount of P306,000.00 for what was prayed for refund by Oceaneering through its demand letters was only to the extent of the unused charter payment in the amount of P224,400.00.

 

For lack of sufficient showing of bad faith on the part of Barretto, the CA erred in granting Oceaneering’s claim for attorney’s fees.

 

The court stated that ‘actual or compensatory damages are those damages which the injured party is entitled to recover for the wrong done and injuries received when none were intended.’  Actual damages are awarded for ‘injuries or losses that are actually sustained and susceptible of measurement’… intended to put the injured party in the position in which he was before he was injured.

 

Hence, the amount of loss must be capable of proof or evidence such as but not limited to sales and delivery receipts, cash and check vouchers and the like. This means that self-serving statements of account are not sufficient basis for an award of actual damages.

 

The Court awarded the value of the lost cargo that was pleaded and prayed for in the answer and duly supported by official receipts and vouchers.

 

Wherefore, premises considered, the petition is PARTIALLY GRANTED and the assailed 12 December 2007 Decision is, accordingly, MODIFIED: (a) to GRANT Oceaneerings claim for the value of its lost cargo in the sum of P2,226,620.00 with 6% interest per annum computed from the filing of the complaint and to earn further interest at the rate of 12% per annum from finality of the decision until full payment; (b) to REDUCE the refund of the consideration for the Time Charter Agreement from P306,000.00 to P224,400.00, with 6% interest per annum computed from 12 March 1998, likewise to earn further interest at the rate of 12% per annum from finality of this decision; and, (c) to DELETE the CAs award of salvaging expenses and attorney’s fees,for lack of factual and legal basis.  The rest is AFFIRMED.

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