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The Case of a Child bitten by a Neighbours Dog

Peter Banaag v. Arthur Sison

THE ISSUE

Whether or not the defendant, Arthur Sison is liable to Mary for damages as defined in Article
2129, Article 2176, Article 2179 and Article 2183 of the New Civil Code.

BRIEF ANSWER

Yes, as supported by Articles 2129, 2176, 2179, and 2183 of the New Civil Code and some
Supreme Court decisions, the defendant, Arthur Sison is liable for damages notwithstanding his
defenses that he was not at fault. He was negligent and as the owner of the dog, he would be
responsible to any damage it would cause except for inevitable circumstances. I recommend to file this
case.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Sometime on September 12, 2016 at around 3 p.m., Mr. Peter Banaags daughter, Mary Banaag,
six years old, went to Mr. Arthur Sisons house to buy ice-candy. Mary knocked at the gate many times,
but got no response from Arthur. She pushed the gate and it yielded. Arthurs dog, Prancer, jumped out
and attacked her from behind. He bit Marys leg and when she fell to the ground, Prancer bit her arms.
She was saved by Fred Puzon, a neighbor, who kicked the dog away and protected her. Awakened by
the commotion and having heard shouts that his dog had attacked a child, Arthur went out. Then, he
commanded his dog to go back to his yard. Thereafter, he brought Mary to a nearby clinic for
treatment, paying the medical bills thereafter.
Because of the injury suffered by his daughter, Peter Banaag demanded twenty thousand pesos
as damages from Arthur Sison. In reply, Arthur rejected his demand alleging that he was not at fault.
In fact, despite not being at fault, he still took the effort of bringing Mary to the clinic and paying for
her treatment.
DISCUSSION

Based on the established facts, Arthur Sison is liable because according to Article 2176 of the
New Civil Code, whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or
negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing
contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of
this Chapter.

As for the nature of Arthurs liability, the provision that governs is Article 2183 of the Civil
Code. It provides that:

The possessor of an animal or whoever may make use of the same is responsible for the damage
which it may cause, although it may escape or be lost. This responsibility shall cease only in case the
damages should come from force majeure from the fault of the person who has suffered damage.

The Supreme Court explained said provision in the case of Vestil v. Intermediate Appellate
Court (G.R. No. 74431, 179 SCRA 47), saying that:

According to Manresa, the obligation imposed by Article 2183 of the Civil Code is not based on
the negligence or on the presumed lack of vigilance of the possessor or user of the animal causing the
damage. It is based on natural equity and on the principle of social interest that he who possesses
animals for his utility, pleasure or service must answer for the damage which such animal may cause.

Now, Arthur may say that what happened was brought about by contributory negligence on
Marys part as the former implied in his letter, or he may claim that letting Mary roam the vicinity
unaccompanied is negligence on the part of the parents and constitutes the proximate cause of her
injuries, notwithstanding his own negligence in leaving the gate unlocked before napping. Both
scenarios are governed by Article 2179 of the Civil Code that provides:

When the plaintiffs own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he
cannot recover damages. But if his negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate
cause of the injury being the defendants lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the
courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded.

In the first scenario, the Supreme Courts ruling in Jarco Marketing Corporation v. Court of
Appeals (G.R. No. 129792, 321 SCRA 375) that a child under nine years of age must be conclusively
presumed incapable of contributory negligence as a matter of law covers Mary, hence throwing the
notion of contributory negligence on her part out the window. As for the second scenario, the ruling in
Umali v. Bacani (G.R. No. L-40570, 69 SCRA 263) provides that parental negligence in allowing a
young child to go out of the house alone may at most qualify as contributory negligence and as such
would be covered by the second sentence of Article 2179.

Arthur, being the owner of the dog that attacked Mary, is liable for damages. Had Arthur not left
the gate unlocked before taking a nap (an act showing a lack of due care), there would have been no
way the dog could have attacked Mary. Of course, he may say that paying Marys medical bill should
be enough, but that does not cover the moral damages that Mary is entitled to under Article 2219 (2) of
the Civil Code, which specifically pertains to quasi-delicts causing physical injuries. As mentioned
earlier, the only reprieve due him would be a mitigation of his liability.

By way of a concluding statement, it is respectfully submitted that Arthur Sison, despite all his
justifications, remains liable for damages. At best, his defenses may only mitigate his liabilities.