WASSMER VS. VELEZ

Posted: April 12, 2017 in case digests, civil law, torts
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WASSMER VS. VELEZ

G.R. No. L-20089

December 26, 1964

By: Karen P. Lustica

 

Facts: Francisco Velez and Beatriz Wassmer, following their mutual promise of love decided to get married on September 4, 1954. On the day of the supposed marriage, Velez left a note for his bride-to-be that day to postpone their wedding because his mother opposes it. Therefore, Velez did not appear and was not heard from again.

Beatriz sued Velez for damages and Velez failed to answer and was declared in default. Judgement was rendered ordering the defendant to pay plaintiff P2.000 as actual damages P25,000 as moral and exemplary damages, P2,500 as attorney’s fees.

Later, an attempt by the Court for amicable settlement was given chance but failed, thereby rendered judgment hence this appeal.

In support of his “motion for new trial and reconsideration,” defendant asserts that the judgment is contrary to law. The reason given is that “there is no provision of the Civil Code authorizing” an action for breach of promise to marry. Indeed, our ruling in Hermosisima vs. Court of Appeals (L-14628, Sept. 30, 1960), as reiterated in Estopa vs. Biansay (L-14733, Sept. 30, 1960), is that “mere breach of a promise to marry” is not an actionable wrong. We pointed out that Congress deliberately eliminated from the draft of the new Civil Code the provisions that would have it so.

 

Issue: Whether or not breach of promise to marry is an actionable wrong in this case.

 

Held: YES.

Ratio: The Court admitted that under Hermosisima vs. Court of Appeals, ordinarily, a mere breach of promise to marry is not an actionable wrong. However, it said that “the extent to which acts not contrary to law may be perpetrated with impunity, was not limitless” because of Article 21 of the NCC.

“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.”

The Court found that on August 23, 1954, Wassmer and Velez applied for a license to conrtract marriage, the wedding was set for September 4, 1954 and invitations were printed and distributed to relatives, friends and acquaintances.

In addition, the bride-to-be’s trousseau, party drsrses and other apparel for the important occasion were purchased. Dresses for the maid of honor and the flower girl were prepared. A matrimonial bed, with accessories, was bought. Bridal showers were given and gifts received. And then, with but two days before the wedding, defendant, who was then 28 years old,: simply left a note for plaintiff stating: “Will have to postpone wedding — My mother opposes it … ” He enplaned to his home city in Mindanao, and the next day, the day before the wedding, he wired plaintiff: “Nothing changed rest assured returning soon.” But he never returned and was never heard from again.

 

The Court ruled that this was not a case of mere breach to marry.

As stated, mere breach of promise to marry is not an actionable wrong. But to formally set a wedding and go through all the above-described preparation and publicity, only to walk out of it when the matrimony is about to be solemnized, is quite different. This is palpably and unjustifiably contrary to good customs for which defendant must be held answerable in damages in accordance with Article 21 aforesaid.

Hence, although Velez did not violate any law in abandoning his fiancée, he was ordered to pay damages because he exhibited behavior that was contrary to morals, good customs or public policy. It may also argued that the Court awarded damages because of the public humiliation suffered by Wassmer and her family.

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