Case Digest: MERALCO vs. Castillo

G.R. No. 182976: January 14, 2013

MANILA ELECTRIC COMPANY (MERALCO), Petitioner, v. ATTY. PABLITO M. CASTILLO, doing business under the trade name and style of PERMANENT LIGHT MANUFACTURING ENTERPRISES and GUIA S. CASTILLO, Respondents.

VILLARAMA, JR., J.


FACTS:

Respondents Pablito M. Castillo and Guia S. Castillo are spouses engaged a business under the name and style of Permanent Light Manufacturing Enterprises (Permanent Light).

After conducting an inspection of Permanent Lights electric meter, the petitioner Manila Electric Company (Meralco) concluded that the meter was tampered with and electric supply to Permanent Light was immediately disconnected, without notice to respondents, for one day. However, respondents used generators soon after the power went out to keep the operations of Permanent Light on track.

Subsequently, Meralco assured respondents in a letter that Permanent Lights meter has been tested and was found to be in order. In the same letter, petitioner informed respondents that said meter was replaced anew after it sustained a crack during testing. However, respondents requested for a replacement meter. According to them, the meters installed by Meralco ran faster than the one it confiscated following the disconnection. Subsequently, Meralco installed a new electric meter at the premises of Permanent Light.

ISSUES:

A. Whether or not the respondents are entitled to claim damages for petitioners act of disconnecting electricity to Permanent Light.

B. Whether or not the respondents are entitled to actual damages for the supposed overbilling by petitioner Meralco of their electric consumption from the time the new electric meter was installed.

HELD: Petition lacks merit.

CIVIL LAW: Damages

First Issue:

In Quisumbing v. Manila Electric Company, the Court treated the immediate disconnection of electricity without notice as a form of deprivation of property without due process of law, which entitles the subscriber aggrieved to moral damages. In addition to moral damages, exemplary damages are imposed by way of example or correction for the public good. In this case, to serve as an example - that before disconnection of electric supply can be effected by a public utility, the requisites of law must be complied with the Court sustained the award of exemplary damages to respondents.

Second Issue:

Actual or compensatory damages cannot be presumed, but must be duly proved with a reasonable degree of certainty. The award is dependent upon competent proof of the damage suffered and the actual amount thereof. The award must be based on the evidence presented, not on the personal knowledge of the court; and certainly not on flimsy, remote, speculative and unsubstantial proof. Nonetheless, in the absence of competent proof on the amount of actual damages suffered, a party is entitled to temperate damages. Temperate or moderate damages, which are more than nominal but less than compensatory damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty. The amount thereof is usually left to the discretion of the courts but the same should be reasonable.

In this case, the Court is convinced that respondents sustained damages from the abnormal increase in Permanent Lights electric bills after petitioner replaced the latters meter. However, respondents failed to establish the exact amount thereof by competent evidence. Thus, temperate damages is awarded.

Petition is DENIED. The decision of CA is affirmed.

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