Lesson: If the facts are bereft of any record of the existence of a contract of deposit, oral or written, there is no obligation for the depositary to return the thing to the depositor.
In July 1976, respondent hotel owner Bonifacio Maceda obtained a P7.3 million loan from DBP for the construction of his New Gran Hotel in Tacloban City. He then entered into a construction contract with Moreman, and agreed to finish on or before December 22, 1977. Moreman deposited construction materials in the warehouse of the Wilson and Lily Chan (warehouse owners) free of charge. Moreman did not finish the construction at the agreed time. Hence, in Feb 1978, Maceda filed an action for rescission and damages against Moreman with CFI Manila.
During pendency of the case between contractor and hotel owner, hotel owner Maceda demanded warehouse owners Chan to return the materials and equipment. The warehouse owners then told him that Moreman the foreman withdrew those materials in 1977.
Maceda filed an action for damages against the warehouse owners. He maintains that as depositaries under the law, they both have fiduciary and extraordinary obligations not only to safekeep the materials, but to return all their products, accessories, and accessions, pursuant to the Civil Code. (NCC 1972, 1979, 1983, 1988)
Are the warehouse owners Chan obliged to pay damages to hotel owner Maceda as depositaries?
No. Maceda miserably failed to prove the existence of the contract between him and the warehouse owners, particularly a contract of deposit. Every cause of action ex-contracu must be founded upon a contract, oral or written, express or implied.
(a) There was no privity of contract, hence there is no obligation or liability to speak about and thus no cause of action arises. (b) contracts are only binding upon the parties (and their assigns and heirs) who execute them. Here, the record is bereft of any contract of deposit, oral or written between the Chans and Maceda. The depositary is obliged to return the thing to the depositor only if there is a designated contract. The delivery receipts have no probative value at all because they are significantly unsigned, and not duly received nor authenticated by either Moreman (contractor) or the parties.
No contract = no actual and compensatory damages
Considering that there was no contract of deposit between parties, and no evidence to prove that materials were in the warehouse of Chans, the Chans are not liable of actual and compensatory damages because they cannot be presumed. They must be proved with reasonable degree of certainty. The court cannot rely on speculations, conjectures, or guesswork as to the fact and amount of damages, but must depend on competent proof suffered by the injured party. Complaint on actual and compensatory damages must be evaluated with the highest degree of objectivity and certainty.