Owen Prosper A. Mackay v. Sps. Dana Caswell
If the work of a contractor has defects which destroy or lessen its value or fitness for its ordinary or stipulated use, he may be required to remove the defect or execute another work. If he fails to do so, he shall be liable for the expenses by the employer for the correction of the work.
G.R. No. 183872, 17 November 2014
Complainant Owen Prosper A. Mackay initiated a Complaint for Collection of Sum of Money with Damages against defendants Sps. Dana Caswell and Cerelina Caswell. Previously, defendants engaged the services of complainant and his group who obligated themselves to provide electrical installation service for P250,000.00 in the new home of the spouses. Nearing completion, defendants had already paid P227,000.00 to complainant. However, when the local distributor of electricity conducted its inspection of the installation work, it refused to provide electricity as there were several defects.
As a result, defendants searched for complainant to remedy the problems. As complainant was nowhere to be found, defendants were constrained to contract the services of the local distributor. Thereafter, defendants filed a case against complainant and his group for estafa but which case was dismissed to reasonable doubt. In response, complainant initiated this case to recover the remaining P23,000.00 from defendants.
HELD: The complaint was dismissed. Complainant was ordered to pay the liabilities incurred by the spouses in rectifying his work. “Suffice it to say that Owen’s job was not only to finish the electrical installation work. It was likewise his obligation to do quality work and to provide quality materials to ensure that electricity would flow in the Caswell home. For the Caswells to avail of this utility, it is definitely expected that the electrical materials used should meet the technical requirements for a service entrance as imposed by the only distributor of the electricity in the area, Zameco II, so that the latter can supply residential electric service efficiently and safely to the Caswells. However, as shown above, Owen failed to execute his work in such a manner that it has no defects which destroy or lessen its value or fitness for its ordinary or stipulated use.”
The law specifically provides the liability of a contractor in such a case as this. “Under Article 1715 of the Civil Code, if the work of a contractor has defects which destroy or lessen its value or fitness for its ordinary or stipulated use, he may be required to remove the defect or execute another work. If he fails to do so, he shall be liable for the expenses by the employer for the correction of the work. The demand required of the employer under the subject provision need not be in a particular form. In the case at bar, we agree with the CA that Owen was given the opportunity to rectify his work. Subsequent to Zameco II’s disapproval to supply the Caswells electricity for several reasons, the Court gives credence to the latter’s claim that they looked for Owen to demand a rectification of the work, but Owen and his group were nowhere to be found. Had Owen really been readily available to the Caswells to correct any deficiency in the work, the latter would not have entertained the thought that they were deceived and would not have been constrained to undergo the rigors of filing a criminal complaint and testifying therein. Without doubt, the Caswells exercised due diligence when they demanded from Owen the proper rectification of his work. As correctly held by the CA, the Caswells substantially complied with the requirement of Article 1715 of the Civil Code…”
As to the filing of a complaint for specific performance, “to require the Caswells to file an action for specific performance, as opined by the RTC, not only deprives them of hiring someone else to rectify the work, but also defeats the very purpose of the contracted work, i.e., to immediately have electricity in their home. In this situation, time is of the essence.”
Due to the substandard work, “the Caswells necessarily incurred expenses by purchasing materials to finally get a supply of electricity in their home.”
It is a well established rule that one is entitled to adequate compensation “only for such pecuniary loss suffered by him as he has duly proved. ‘To justify an award of actual damages, there must be competent proof of the actual amount of loss, credence can be given only to claims which are duly supported by receipts.’ The claimant must prove the actual amount of loss with a reasonable degree of certainty premised upon competent proof and on the best evidence obtainable. In the case at bar, we give credence to the documents relied upon by the CA and the MTC in arriving at the rectification cost, i.e., a) Engr. Pulangco’s handwritten receipt of P15,400.00, to which he had testified before the court that he had indeed received such amount and b) the Sales Invoice No. 2029 issued by Peter A. Eduria Enterprises reflecting the total cost of P53,805.00.00.”
As for the Sales Invoice which failed to indicate the unit prices, such failure “does not defeat the claim of the Caswells for reimbursement. In most cases in the ordinary course of business, sellers issue handwritten receipts that are perfunctorily filled out without completely stating all the details of the purchase. This ‘flaw’ should not be taken against the Caswells. Besides, if the unit price per item is an issue, a perusal of Dana’s separate list will show the unit prices of the items in the sales invoice.”
As for the alleged non-existence of Peter A. Eduria Enterprises, “the negative certifications presented however only highlight the probable liability of the store with the government for non-compliance with business registration. Regardless of whether the latter had registered itself as a business entity with the proper authorities, the documents Owen relies upon fail to overcome the point of the receipt: that a sale of electrical items for installation had transpired between the Caswells and the seller. With the relevant facts established that Zameco II rejected the quality of Owen’s work and that rectifications were made by installing the necessary materials to meet the electric distributor’s specifications, the said invoice cannot be considered as bereft of evidentiary value.”
Lastly, legal compensation was proper as to the Owen’s claim for P23,000.00 unpaid fees. Here, “Cerelina herself admitted that the contract price agreed upon was the lump sum of P250,000.00, and that she only paid Owen P227,000.00, while the dispositive portion of the MTC Decision stated that Owen’s claims are dismissed, the lower court implies that the P23,000.00 unpaid compensation he sought to recover from the Caswells shall not be given directly to him, offsetting the said amount from the rectification cost that the Caswells had prayed for. In effect, under the circumstances, we deem this fair and just to measure the actual damages due the Caswells by reducing the cost they shouldered to repair the defects with the unpaid amount of the contract price due Owen.”