Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love and legalities

It is the season of love, so let us digress a little bit.
Let’s talk about love.
If you think the Supreme Court deals only with the esoteric, you err.
The high court is never detached to the mundane concerns of day-to-day life, specially on matters affecting the affairs of the heart.
Perhaps, one of the Supreme Court decisions that cannot be forgotten by law students is the case of Wassmer versus Velez, decided a day after Christmas in 1964.
This is the story of a groom who suddenly had cold feet and “chickened out” one day before his wedding day.
A frustrated, dejected and angry bride sued the elusive and indecisive groom for damages.
The story of Beatriz P. Wassmer and Fracisco “Paquing” X. Velez, is indeed one for the Supreme Court books.
This happened in 1954 where the love birds, Bet and Paquing, after professing their mutual promise of love for each other, decided to get married on September 4.
Bet and Paquing applied for a married license.
Invitations were printed and distributed to relatives, friends and acquaintances.
The bride-to-be’s trousseau, party dresses and other apparel were purchased.
Dresses for the maid of honor and flower girl were prepared.
Even a matrimonial bed, where the two were to consummate their romantic liaison, was bought.
Bridal showers were given and gifts already received.
However, with all but two days before the wedding, the bride-to-be met the greatest shock of her life when the 28 year old groom-to-be left her with a note:
“Dear Bet---
Will have to postpone wedding. My mother opposed it. Am leaving on the Convair today.
Please do not ask too many people about the reason why---That would only create a scandal.
It turned out that the future husband had enplaned back to his home city in Mindanao.
Shock and disbelief consumed the distraught, lonely and mourning bride.
The next day, September 3, one day before the scheduled wedding, Pacquing, telegrammed Beatriz another note:
But the good Paquing never appeared, nor was he heard of again.
Beatriz did not take this unparalleled humiliation sitting down.
She sued her defaulting husband-to-be for damages.
Even in court, Paquing chickened out.
He did not file an answer to the charges.
The trial court ruled in favor of Beatriz.
Pacquing then appealed to the Supreme Court
In the Surpeme Court Pacquing argued that his failure to marry Beatriz was due to a “fortuitous event” and/or circumstances “beyond his control”.
Pacquing, sounding smart, argued there is no provision in the civil code allowing an action for breach of promise to marry.
But the Supreme Court thrashed the argument.
The Supreme Court ruled that true, breach of promise to marry is not an actionable wrong.
But this is not a mere case of breach of promise to marry, the court reminded.
“To formally set a wedding and go through all the preparations and publicity, only to walk out of it when the matrimony is about to be solemnized, is quite different,” the high court said.
“This is palpably and unjustifiably contrary to good customs for which Pacquing must be held answerable in damages,” said the court.
The Supreme Court cited Article 21 of the civil code which says: “Any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy, shall compensate the latter for the damage.”
The lesson for the irresolute grooms-to-be: if you chicken out, do not back out in the proverbial eleventh hour .
For you can be held liable for damages.
Also, don’t under-estimate a dejected bride.
For as the famous line in The Mourning Bride says: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Happy Valentines!

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