Saturday, February 25, 2012

Zenith Insurance Corporation vs. CA [G.R. No. 85296 May 14, 1990]

Facts: On January 25, 1983, private respondent Lawrence Fernandez insured his car for "own damage" with petitioner Zenith Insurance Corporation. On July 6, 1983, the car figured in an accident and suffered actual damages in the amount of P3,640.00. After allegedly being given a run around by Zenith for two (2) months, Fernandez filed a complaint with the Regional Trial Court of Cebu for sum of money and damages resulting from the refusal of Zenith to pay the amount claimed. Aside from actual damages and interests, Fernandez also prayed for moral damages in the amount of P10,000.00, exemplary damages of P5,000.00, attorney's fees of P3,000.00 and litigation expenses of P3,000.00. 

On September 28, 1983, Zenith filed an answer alleging that it offered to pay the claim of Fernandez pursuant to the terms and conditions of the contract which, the private respondent rejected. On June 4, 1986, a decision was rendered by the trial court in favor of private respondent Fernandez. On August 17, 1988, the Court of Appeals rendered its decision affirming in toto the decision of the trial court. 

Issue: The propriety of the award of moral damages, exemplary damages and attorney's fees is the main issue raised herein by petitioner. 

Held: The award of damages in case of unreasonable delay in the payment of insurance claims is governed by the Philippine Insurance Code, which provides: 

Sec. 244. In case of any litigation for the enforcement of any policy or contract of insurance, it shall be the duty of the Commissioner or the Court, as the case may be, to make a finding as to whether the payment of the claim of the insured has been unreasonably denied or withheld; and in the affirmative case, the insurance company shall be adjudged to pay damages which shall consist of attorney's fees and other expenses incurred by the insured person by reason of such unreasonable denial or withholding of payment plus interest of twice the ceiling prescribed by the Monetary Board of the amount of the claim due the insured, from the date following the time prescribed in section two hundred forty-two or in section two hundred forty-three, as the case may be, until the claim is fully satisfied; Provided, That the failure to pay any such claim within the time prescribed in said sections shall be considered prima facie evidence of unreasonable delay in payment. 

It is clear that under the Insurance Code, in case of unreasonable delay in the payment of the proceeds of an insurance policy, the damages that may be awarded are: 1) attorney's fees; 2) other expenses incurred by the insured person by reason of such unreasonable denial or withholding of payment; 3) interest at twice the ceiling prescribed by the Monetary Board of the amount of the claim due the injured; and 4) the amount of the claim.

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