Petitioner, a private corporation engaged in the exportation of food products, was a depositor maintaining a checking account with respondent Traders Royal Bank. Petitioner deposited to its account increasing its balance and subsequently, issued several checks but was surprised to learn that it had been dishonored for insufficient funds. As a consequence, petitioner received demand letters from its suppliers for the dishonored checks. Investigation disclosed that the deposit was not credited to it. The error was rectified and the dishonored checks were consequently paid. Petitioner demanded reparation from respondent bank for its gross and wanton negligence but the later did not heed. Petitioner then filed before the RTC which later held that respondent bank was guilty of negligence but petitioner nonetheless was not entitled to moral damages. CA affirmed.
Whether or not petitioner is entitled to damages due to respondent bank’s negligence.
As the Court sees it, the initial carelessness of the respondent bank, aggravated by the lack of promptitude in repairing its error, justifies the grant of moral damages. This rather lackadaisical attitude toward the complaining depositor constituted the gross negligence, if not wanton bad faith, that the respondent court said had not been established by the petitioner. We shall recognize that the petitioner did suffer injury because of the private respondent’s negligence that caused the dishonor of the checks issued by it. The immediate consequence was that its prestige was impaired because of the bouncing checks and confidence in it as a reliable debtor was diminished.
The point is that as a business affected with public interest and because of the nature of its functions, the bank is under obligation to treat the accounts of its depositors with meticulous care, always having in mind the fiduciary nature of their relationship. In the case at bar, it is obvious that the respondent bank was remiss in that duty and violated that relationship. What is especially deplorable is that, having been informed of its error in not crediting the deposit in question to the petitioner, the respondent bank did not immediately correct it but did so only one week later or twenty-three days after the deposit was made. It bears repeating that the record does not contain any satisfactory explanation of why the error was made in the first place and why it was not corrected immediately after its discovery. Such ineptness comes under the concept of the wanton manner contemplated in the Civil Code that calls for the imposition of exemplary damages.