Altis vs. Expedition: Who Wins?

A Toyota Altis was traveling at a speed of five to ten kilometers per hour along Rajah Matanda Street and has just crossed the center lane of Katipunan Avenue when a Ford Expedition violently rammed against the car’s right rear door and fender. With the force of the impact, the Altis turned 180 degrees towards the direction where it came from. A passenger of the Altis sustained injuries and was immediately brought to the hospital.

The Altis owner demanded from the Expedition owner reimbursement for the expenses incurred in the repair of the car and the hospitalization of the car passenger in the aggregate amount of P103,989.60. The demand fell on deaf ears prompting the Altis owner to file a Complaint for Damages based on quasi-delict before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Metro Manila (MeTC), Quezon City.

The Expedition owner denied liability for damages insisting that it was the negligence of the Altis driver which was the proximate cause of the accident. The Expedition owner maintained that the Altis crossed Katipunan Avenue from Rajah Matanda Street despite the concrete barriers placed thereon prohibiting vehicles to pass through the intersection. The Expedition owner further claimed that he was not in the vehicle when the mishap occurred. He asserted that he exercised the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of his driver.

The MeTC ruled in favor of the Expedition owner. The Altis owner appealed to the Regional Trial Court (RTC), which affirmed the MeTC decision. The Altis owner appealed to the Court of Appeals (CA) which affirmed the view that the Altis driver was negligent in crossing Katipunan Avenue from Rajah Matanda Street. The CA noted that based on a MMDA certification, the “crossing of vehicles at Katipunan Avenue from Rajah Matanda Street to Blue Ridge Subdivision,Quezon City has (sic) not allowed since January 2004 up to the present in view of the ongoing road construction at the area . . .”

However, the CA noted that at the time of the collision, the Expedition was moving at high speed in a busy area that was then the subject of an ongoing construction (the Katipunan Avenue-Boni Serrano Avenue underpass), then smashed into the rear door and fender of the passenger’s side of Altis, sending it spinning in a 180-degree turn. It therefore found the Expedition driver guilty of contributory negligence for driving the Expedition at high speed along a busy intersection. The Expedition owner filed a motion for reconsideration, which the CA denied.

The Supreme Court reversed the CA and held that the Altis driver’s act of crossing Katipunan Avenue via Rajah Matanda constitutes negligence because it was prohibited by law. Moreover, it was the proximate cause of the accident, and thus precludes any recovery for any damages suffered by the Altis owner from the accident. According to the Supreme Court:

Articles 2179 and 2185 of the Civil Code on quasi-delicts apply in this case, viz:

Article 2179. When the plaintiff’s 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 defendant’s lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded.

Article 2185. Unless there is proof to the contrary, it is presumed that a person driving a motor vehicle has been negligent if at the time of the mishap, he was violating any traffic regulation.

If the master is injured by the negligence of a third person and by the concurring contributory negligence of his own servant or agent, the latter’s negligence is imputed to his superior and will defeat the superior’s action against the third person, assuming of course that the contributory negligence was the proximate cause of the injury of which complaint is made.

Applying the foregoing principles of law to the instant case, Aquilino’s act of crossing Katipunan Avenue via Rajah Matanda constitutes negligence because it was prohibited by law. Moreover, it was the proximate cause of the accident, and thus precludes any recovery for any damages suffered by respondent from the accident.

Proximate cause is defined as that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred. And more comprehensively, the proximate legal cause is that acting first and producing the injury, either immediately or by setting other events in motion, all constituting a natural and continuous chain of events, each having a close causal connection with its immediate predecessor, the final event in the chain immediately effecting the injury as a natural and probable result of the cause which first acted, under such circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should, as an ordinary prudent and intelligent person, have reasonable ground to expect at the moment of his act or default that an injury to some person might probably result therefrom.

According to the Supreme Court, if the Altis driver heeded the MMDA prohibition against crossing Katipunan Avenue from Rajah Matanda, the accident would not have happened. The Supreme Court ruled that it was manifest error for the CAs to have overlooked the principle embodied in Article 2179 of the Civil Code, that when the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages.  (Lambert S. Ramos vs. C.O.L. Realty Corporation, G.R. No. 184905, August 28, 2009.)

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