Sunday, June 17, 2012

Geluz v CA G.R. No. L-16439 July 20, 1961

J. J. B.L. Reyes

The litigation was commenced in the Court of First Instance of Manila by respondent Oscar Lazo, the husband of Nita Villanueva, against petitioner Antonio Geluz, a physician. Lazo’s cuase of action was the third and last abortion of his wife to the said doctor.
The wife aborted the first baby before they were legally married. She had herself aborted again by the defendant in October 1953. Less than two years later, she again became pregnant and was aborted when the husband was campaigning in the province. He did not give his consent.
The trial court granted the petition and order the doctor to pay Php 3,000. The CA sustained. The doctor appealed to the Supreme Court.

Issue: WON the husband can recover damages from the death of a fetus

Held: No. Petition granted.

Fixing a minimum award of P3,000.00 for the death of a person, does not cover the case of an unborn foetus that is not endowed with personality.
Since an action for pecuniary damages on account of personal injury or death pertains primarily to the one injured, it is easy to see that if no action for such damages could be instituted on behalf of the unborn child on account of the injuries it received, no such right of action could derivatively accrue to its parents or heirs. In fact, even if a cause of action did accrue on behalf of the unborn child, the same was extinguished by its pre-natal death, since no transmission to anyone can take place from on that lacked juridical personality.
Under Article 40 of the Civil Code, the child should be subsequently born alive: "provided it be born later with the condition specified in the following article". (Read Art 41 of the Civil Code) In the present case, there is no dispute that the child was dead when separated from its mother's womb.

As to the reward of moral damages to Lazo: The court ruled that evidently because the appellee's indifference to the previous abortions of his wife, also caused by the appellant, clearly indicates that he was unconcerned with the frustration of his parental hopes and affections.
He appeared to have taken no steps to investigate or pinpoint the causes thereof, and secure the punishment of the responsible practitioner. Even after learning of the third abortion, the appellee does not seem to have taken interest in the administrative and criminal cases against the appellant. His only concern appears to have been directed at obtaining from the doctor a large money payment, since he sued for P50,000.00 damages and P3,000.00 attorney's fees, an "indemnity" claim that, under the circumstances of record, was clearly exaggerated.

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