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G.R.No.L19495

TodayisThursday,January07,2016

RepublicofthePhilippines
SUPREMECOURT
Manila
ENBANC
G.R.No.L19495February2,1924
HONORIOLASAM,ETAL.,plaintiffsappellants,
vs.
FRANKSMITH,JR.,defendantappellant.
PalmaandLeuterioforplaintiffsappellants.
MarianoAlisangcofordefendantappellant.
OSTRAND,J.:
The plaintiff are husband and wife and this action is brought to recover damages in the sum of P20,000 for
physicalinjuriessustainedbytheminanautomobileaccident.Thetrialcourtrenderedajudgmentintheirfavor
forthesumofP1,254.10,withlegalinterestfromthedateofthejudgment.Boththeplaintiffsandthedefendant
appeal,theformermaintainingthatthedamagesawardedareinsufficientwhilethelatterdeniesallliabilityforany
damageswhatever.
ItappearsfromtheevidencethatonFebruary27,1918,thedefendantwastheownerofapublicgarageinthe
townofSanFernando,LaUnion,andengagedinthebusinessofcarryingpassengersforhirefromtheonepoint
toanotherintheProvinceofLaUnionandthesurroundingprovinces.Onthedatementioned,heundertookto
convey the plaintiffs from San Fernando to Currimao, Ilocos Norte, in a Ford automobile. On leaving San
Fernando,theautomobilewasoperatedbyalicensedchauffeur,butafterhavingreachedthetownofSanJuan,
thechauffeurallowedhisassistant,RemigioBueno,todrivethecar.Buenoheldnodriver'slicense,buthadsome
experience in driving, and with the exception of some slight engine trouble while passing through the town of
Luna, the car functioned well until after the crossing of the Abra River in Tagudin, when, according to the
testimony of the witnesses for the plaintiffs, defects developed in the steering gear so as to make accurate
steeringimpossible,andafterzigzaggingforadistanceofabouthalfakilometer,thecarlefttheroadandwent
downasteepembankment.
Thedefendant,inhistestimony,maintainsthattherewasnodefectinthesteeringgear,neitherbeforenorafter
the accident, and expresses the opinion that the swaying or zigzagging of the car must have been due to its
having been driven at an excessive rate of speed. This may possibly be true, but it is, from our point of view,
immaterialwhethertheaccidentwascausedbynegligenceonthepartofthedefendant'semployees,orwhether
itwasduetodefectsintheautomobiletheresultwouldbepracticallythesameineitherevent.
In going over the bank of the road, the automobile was overturned and the plaintiffs pinned down under it. Mr.
Lasam escaped with a few contusions and a "dislocated" rib , but his wife, Joaquina Sanchez, received serious
injuries,amongwhichwasacompoundfractureofoneofthebonesinherleftwrist.Shealsoappearstohave
sufferedanervousbreakdownfromwhichshehadnotfullyrecoveredatthetimeofthetrial.
Thecomplaintinthecasewasfiledaboutayearandahalfaftertheoccurrenceaboverelated.Italleges,among
other things, that the accident was due to defects in the automobile as well as to the incompetence and
negligenceofthechauffeur,andthecaseappearstohavebeentriedlargelyuponthetheorythatitsoundsintort
andthattheliabilityofthedefendantisgovernedbyarticle1903oftheCivilCode.Thetrialcourtheld,however,
that the cause of action rests on the defendant's breach of the contract of carriage and that, consequently,
articles11011107oftheCivilCode,andnotarticle1903,areapplicable.Thecourtfurtherfoundthatthebreach
ofthecontractwasnotduetofortuitouseventsandthat,therefore,thedefendantwasliableindamages.
Inouropinion,theconclusionsofthecourtbelowareentirelycorrect.Thatuponthefactsstatedthedefendant's
liability,ifany,iscontractual,iswellsettledbypreviousdecisionsofthecourt,beginningwiththecaseofRakes
vs.Atlantic,Gulf&PacificCo.(7Phil.,359),andthedistinctionbetweenextracontractualliabilityandcontractual
liability has been so ably and exhaustively discussed in various other cases, that nothing further need here be
said upon that subject. (See Cangco vs. Manila Railroad Co., 38 Phil., 768 Manila Railroad Co. vs. Compania
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TrasatlanticaandAtlantic,Gulf&PacificCo.,38Phil.,875DeGuiavs.ManilaElectricRailroad&LightCo.,40
Phil., 706.) It is sufficient to reiterate that the source of the defendant's legal liability is the contract of carriage
thatbyenteringintothatcontractheboundhimselftocarrytheplaintiffssafelyandsecurelytotheirdestination
andthathavingfailedtodosoheisliableindamagesunlessheshowsthatthefailuretofulfillhisobligationwas
duetocausesmentionedinarticle1105oftheCivilCode,whichreadsasfollows:
Nooneshallbeliableforeventswhichcouldnotbeforeseenorwhich,evenifforeseen,wereinevitable,
with the exception of the cases in which the law expressly provides otherwise and those in which the
obligationitselfimposessuchliability.
Thisbringsustotheprincipalquestioninthecase:
What is meant by "events which cannot be foreseen and which, having been foreseen, are inevitable?" The
Spanishauthoritiesregardthelanguageemployedasanefforttodefinethetermcasofortuitoandholdthatthe
two expressions are synonymous. (Manresa, Comentarios al Codigo Civil Espaol, vol. 8, pp. 88 et seq.
Scvola,CodigoCivil,vol.19,pp.526etseq.)
The antecedent to article 1105 is found in Law 11, Title 33, Partida 7, which defines caso fortuito as "occasion
queacaseporaventuradequenonsepuedeantever.Esonestos,derrivamientosdecasasefuegoquese
enciendeasoora,equebrantamientodenavio,fuercadeladrones....(Aneventthattakesplacebyaccident
and could not have been foreseen. Examples of this are destruction of houses, unexpected fire, shipwreck,
violenceofrobbers....)"
Escrichedefinescasofortuitoas"anunexpectedeventoractofGodwhichcouldeitherbeforeseennorresisted,
suchasfloods,torrents,shipwrecks,conflagrations,lightning,compulsion,insurrections,destructions,destruction
ofbuildingsbyunforseenaccidentsandotheroccurrencesofasimilarnature."
IndiscussingandanalyzingthetermcasofortuitotheEnciclopediaJuridicaEspaolasays:"Inalegalsenseand,
consequently,alsoinrelationtocontracts,acasofortuitopresentsthefollowingessentialcharacteristics:(1)The
causeoftheunforeseenandunexpectedoccurrence,orofthefailureofthedebtortocomplywithhisobligation,
mustbeindependentofthehumanwill.(2)Itmustbeimpossibletoforeseetheeventwhichconstitutesthecaso
fortuito,orifitcanbeforeseen,itmustbeimpossibletoavoid.(3)Theoccurrencemustbesuchastorenderit
impossibleforthedebtortofulfillhisobligationinanormalmanner.And(4)theobligor(debtor)mustbefreefrom
anyparticipationintheaggravationoftheinjuryresultingtothecreditor."(5EnciclopediaJuridicaEspaola,309.)
As will be seen, these authorities agree that some extraordinary circumstance independent of the will of the
obligor,orofhisemployees,isanessentialelementofacasofortuito.Turningtothepresentcase,itisatonce
apparentthatthiselementislacking.ItisnotsuggestedthattheaccidentinquestionwasduetoanactofGodor
toadverseroadconditionswhichcouldnothavebeenforeseen.Asfarastherecordsshows,theaccidentwas
causedeitherbydefectsintheautomobileorelsethroughthenegligenceofitsdriver.Thatisnotacasofortuito.
WeagreewithcounselthatneitherundertheAmericannorSpanishlawisacarrierofpassengersanabsolute
insureragainsttherisksoftravelfromwhichthepassengermayprotecthimselfbyexercisingordinarycareand
diligence.ThecaseofAlbavs.SociedadAnonimadeTranvias,JurisprudenciaCivil,vol.102,p.928,citedbythe
defendantinsupportofhiscontentions,affordsagoodillustrationoftheapplicationofthisprinciple.Inthatcase
Alba,apassengeronastreetcar,wasstandingontheplatformofthecarwhileitwasinmotion.Thecarrounded
acurvecausingAlbatolosehisbalanceandfallofftheplatform,sustainingsevereinjuries.Inanactionbrought
byhimtorecoverdamages,thesupremecourtofSpainheldthatinasmuchasthecaratthetimeoftheaccident
was travelling at a moderate rate of speed and there was no infraction of the regulations, and the plaintiff was
exposedtonogreaterdangerthanthatinherentinthatparticularmodeoftravel,theplaintiffcouldnotrecover,
especially so since he should have been on his guard against a contingency as natural as that of losing his
balancetoagreaterorlessextentwhenthecarroundedthecurve.
But such is not the present case here the passengers had no means of avoiding the danger or escaping the
injury.
The plaintiffs maintain that the evidence clearly establishes that they are entitled to damages in the sum of
P7,832.80insteadofP1,254.10asfoundbythetrialcourt,andtheirassignmentsoferrorrelatetothispointonly.
Therecanbenodoubtthattheexpensesincurredbytheplaintiffsasaresultoftheaccidentgreatlyexceeded
theamountofthedamagesawarded.Butbearinginmindthatindeterminingtheextentoftheliabilityforlosses
ordamagesresultingfromnegligenceinthefulfillmentofacontractualobligation,thecourtshave"adiscretionary
powertomoderatetheliabilityaccordingtothecircumstances"(DeGuiavs.ManilaElectricRailroad&LightCo.,
40Phil.,706art.1103,CivilCode),wedonotthinkthattheevidenceissuchastojustifyusininterferingwiththe
discretionofthecourtbelowinthisrespect.Aspointedoutbythatcourtinitswellreasonedandwellconsidered
decision,byfarthegreaterpartofthedamagesclaimedbytheplaintiffsresultedfromthefractureofabonein
theleftwristofJoaquinaSanchezandfromherobjectionstohavingadecayingsplinteroftheboneremovedbya
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surgical operation. As a consequence of her refusal to submit such an operation, a series of infections ensued
andwhichrequiredconstantandexpensivemedicaltreatmentforseveralyears.Weagreewiththecourtbelow
thatthedefendantshouldnotbechargedwiththeseexpenses.
Forthereasonsstated,thejudgmentappealedfromisaffirmed,withoutcostsinthisinstance.Soordered.
Araullo,C.J.,Street,Malcolm,JohnsandRomualdez,JJ.,concur.
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