March 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected March 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Common carrier; breach of contract of carriage. There existed a contract of carriage between G & S, as the owner and operator of the Avis taxicab, and Jose Marcial, as the passenger of said vehicle.   As a common carrier, G & S is bound to carry [Jose Marcial] safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with due regard for all the circumstances.  However, Jose Marcial was not able to reach his destination safely as he died during the course of the travel. “In a contract of carriage, it is presumed that the common carrier is at fault or is negligent when a passenger dies or is injured.  In fact, there is even no need for the court to make an express finding of fault or negligence on the part of the common carrier. This statutory presumption may only be overcome by evidence that the carrier exercised extraordinary diligence.  Unfortunately, G & S miserably failed to overcome this presumption.  Both the trial court and the CA found that the accident which led to Jose Marcial’s death was due to the reckless driving and gross negligence of G & S’ driver, Padilla, thereby holding G & S liable to the heirs of Jose Marcial for breach of contract of carriage.

That the driver was acquitted in the criminal case for reckless imprudence is immaterial. Article 31 of the Civil Code provides, viz:

When the civil action is based on an obligation not arising from the act or omission complained of as a felony, such civil action may proceed independently of the criminal proceedings and regardless of the result of the latter.

In this case, the action filed by the heirs is primarily for the recovery of damages arising from breach of contract of carriage allegedly committed by G & S.  Clearly, it is an independent civil action arising from contract which is separate and distinct from the criminal action for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide filed by the heirs against Padilla by reason of the same incident.  Hence, regardless of Padilla’s acquittal or conviction in said criminal case, same has no bearing in the resolution of the present case.  Heirs of Jose Marcial K. Ochoa, namely: Ruby B. Ochoa, et al. v. G & S Transport Corporation/G & S Transport Corporation v. Heirs of Jose Marcial K. Ochoa, namely: Ruby B. Ochoa, et al., G.R. No. 170071 & G.R. No. 170125, March 9, 2011.

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