G.R. No. L-46061, November 14, 1984

This case is about the recovery of damages for a wrongful advertisement in the Sunday Times where Saint Louis Realty Corporation misrepresented that the house of Doctor Conrado J. Aramil belonged to Arcadio S. Arcadio.

St. Louis Realty caused to be published with the permission of Arcadio S. Arcadio (but without permission of Doctor Aramil) in the issue of the Sunday Times of December 15, 1968 an advertisement with the heading "WHERE THE HEART IS". Below that heading was the photograph of the residence of Doctor Aramil and the Arcadio family and then below the photograph was the following write-up:

"Home is where the heart is. And the hearts of MR. AND MRS. ARCADIO S. ARCADIO and their family have been captured by BROOKSIDE HILLS. They used to rent a small 2-bedroom house in a cramped neighborhood, sadly inadequate and unwholesome for the needs of a large family. They dream(ed) of a more pleasant place free from the din and dust of city life yet near all facilities. Plans took shape when they heard of BROOKSIDE HILLS. With thrift and determination, they bought a lot and built their dream house . . . for P31,000. The Arcadios are now part of the friendly, thriving community of BROOKSIDE HILLS ... a beautiful first-class subdivision planned for wholesome family living." 

The same advertisement appeared in the Sunday Times dated January 5,1969. Doctor Aramil, a neuropsychiatrist and a member of the faculty of the U. E. Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital, noticed the mistake. On that same date, he wrote St. Louis Realty the following letter of protest: 

"Dear Sirs: 

This is anent to your advertisements appearing in the December 15, 1968 and January 5, 1959 issues of the Sunday Times which boldly de picted my house at the above-mentioned address and implying that belonged to another person. I am not aware of any permission or authority on my part for the use of my house for such publicity. 

"This unauthorized use of my house for your promotional gain and much more the apparent distortions therein are I believe not only transgression to my private property but also damaging to my prestige in the medical profession. I have had invited in several occasions numerous medical colleagues, medical students and friends to my house and after reading your December 15 advertisement, some of them have uttered some remarks purporting doubts as to my professional and personal integrity. Such sly remarks although in light vein as 'it looks like your house,' 'how much are you renting from the Arcadins?' , 'like your wife portrayed in the papers as belonging to another husband,' etc., have resulted in no little mental anguish on my part. 

"I have referred this matter to the Legal Panel of the Philippine Medical Association and their final advice is pending upon my submission of supporting ownership papers. 

"I will therefore be constrained to pursue court action against your corporation unless you could satisfactorily explain this matter within a week upon receipt of this letter." 

The letter was received by Ernesto Magtoto, an officer of St. Louis Realty in charge of advertising. He stopped publication of the advertisement. He contacted Doctor Aramil and offered his apologies. However, no rectification or apology was published. 

On February 20, 1969, Aramil's counsel demanded from St, Louis Realty actual, moral and exemplary damages of P110,000 (Exh. D). In its answer dated March 10, St. Louis Realty claimed that there was an honest mistake and that if Aramil so desired, rectification would be published in the Manila Times (Exh. 3). 

It published in the issue of the Manila Times of March 18, 1969 a new advertisement with the Arcadio family and their real house. But it did not publish any apology to Doctor Aramil and an explanation of the error. 

On March 29, Aramil filed his complaint for damages. St. Louis Realty published in the issue of the Manila Times of April 15,1969 the following "NOTICE OF RECTIFICATION" in a space 4 by 3 inches: 

"This will serve as a notice that our print ad 'Where the Heart is' which appeared in the Manila Times issue of March 18, 1969 is a rectification of the same ad that appeared in the Manila Times issues of December 15, 1968 and January 5, 1969 wherein a photo of the house of another Brookside Homeowner (Dr. Aramil-private respondent) was mistakenly used as a background for the featured homeowner's the Arcadio family. 

"The ad of March 18, 1969 shows the Arcadio family with their real house in the background, as was intended all along." 

Judge Jose M. Leuterio observed that St. Louis Realty should have immediately published a rectification and apology. He found that as a result of St. Louis Realty's mistake, magnified by its utter lack of sincerity, Doctor Aramil suffered mental anguish and his income was reduced by about P1,000 to P1,500 a month. Moreover, there was violation of Aramil's right to privacy (Art. 26, Civil Code). 

The trial court awarded Aramil P8,000 as actual damages, P20,000 as moral damages and P2,000 as attorney's fees. St. Louis Realty appealed to the Court of Appeals. 

The Appellate Court affirmed that judgment, with Acting Presiding Justice Magno S. Gatmaitan as ponente, and Justices Sixto A. Domondon and Samuel F. Reyes concurring. 

The Appellate Court reasoned out that St. Louis Realty committed an actionable quasi-delict under Articles 21 and 26 of the Civil Code because (he questioned advertisements pictured a beautiful house which did not belong to Arcadio but to Doctor Aramil who, naturally, was annoyed by that contretemps. 

In this appeal, St. Louis Realty contends that the Appellate Court ignored certain facts and resorted to surmises and conjectures. This contention is unwarranted. The Appellate Court adopted the facts found by the trial court. Those factual findings are binding on this Court. 

St. Louis Realty also contends that the decision is contrary to law and that the case was decided in a way not in conformity with the rulings of this Court. It argues that the case is not covered by Article 26 which provides that "every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons". "Prying into the privacy of another's residence" and "meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another" and "similar acts," "though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief." 

The damages fixed by Judge Leuterio are sanctioned by Articles 2200, 2208 and 2219 of the Civil Code. Article 2219 allows moral damages for acts mid actions mentioned in Article 26. As lengthily explained by Justice Gafmailan, the acts and omissions of the firm fall under Article 26. 

St. Louis Realty's employee was grossly negligent in mixing up the Aramil and Arcadio residences in a widely circulated publication like the Sunday Times. To suit its purpose, it never made any written apology and explanation of the mix up. It just contented itself with a cavalier "rectification." 

Persons, who know the residence of Doctor Aramil, were confused by the distorted, lingering impression that he was renting his residence from Arcadio or that Arcadio had leased it from him. Either way, his private life was mistakenly and unnecessarily exposed. He suffered diminution of income and mental anguish. 

WHEREFORE, the judgment of the Appellate Court is affirmed. 

Costs against the petitioner. 


Makasiar, Concepcion Jr., Abad Santos, Escolin, and Cuevas, JJ., concur.