Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Batangas Transportation Company vs. Caguimbal, G.R. No. L-22985, January 24, 1968

Facts: Caguimbal who was a paying pasenger of Batangas Transportation Company (BTCO) bus died when the bus of the Biñan Transportation Company (Binan) which was coming from the opposite direction and a calesa managed by Makahiya, which was then ahead of the Biñan bus met an accident. 

A passenger requested the conductor of BTCO to stop as he was going to alight, and when he heard the signal of the conductor, the driver slowed down his bus swerving it farther to the right in order to stop; at this juncture, a calesa, then driven by Makahiya was at a distance of several meters facing the BTCO bus coming from the opposite direction; that at the same time the Biñan bus was about 100 meters away likewise going northward and following the direction of the calesa; that upon seeing the Biñan bus the driver of the BTCO bus dimmed his light; that as the calesa and the BTCO bus were passing each other from the opposite directions, the Biñan bus following the calesa swerved to its left in an attempt to pass between the BTCO bus and the calesa; that without diminishing its speed of about seventy (70) kilometers an hour, the Biñan bus passed through the space between the BTCO bus and the calesa hitting first the left side of the BTCO bus with the left front corner of its body and then bumped and struck the calesa which was completely wrecked; that the driver was seriously injured and the horse was killed; that the second and all other posts supporting the top of the left side of the BTCO bus were completely smashed and half of the back wall to the left was ripped open. The BTCO bus suffered damages for the repair of its damaged portion.As a consequence of this occurrence, Caguimbal and Tolentino died, apart from others who were injured. 

The widow and children of Caguimbal sued to recover damages from the BTCO. The latter, in turn, filed a third-party complaint against the Biñan and its driver, Ilagan. Subsequently, the Caguimbals amended their complaint, to include therein, as defendants, said Biñan and Ilagan. 

CFI dismissed the complaint insofar as the BTCO is concerned, without prejudice to plaintiff's right to sue Biñan and Ilagan. CA reversed said decision and rendered judgment for Caguimbal. BTCO appealed to SC. 

Issue: Whether BTCO is liable to pay damages for failure to exercise extraordinary diligence? 

Held: YES. BTCO has not proven the exercise of extraordinary diligence on its part. 

The recklessness of the driver of Binan was, manifestly, a major factor in the occurrence of the accident which resultedin the death of Pedro Caguimbal. Indeed, as driver of the Biñan bus, he overtook Makahiya's horse-driven rig or calesa and passed between the same and the BTCO bus despite the fact that the space available was not big enough therefor, in view of which the Biñan bus hit the left side of the BTCO bus and then the calesa. 

Article 1733 of the Civil Code provides the general rule that extraordinary diligence must be exercised by the driver of a bus in the vigilance for the safety of his passengers. 

The record shows that, in order to permit one of them to disembark, the BTCO bus driver drove partly to the right shoulder of the road and partly on the asphalted portion thereof. Yet, he could have and should have seen to it — had he exercised "extraordinary diligence" — that his bus was completely outside the asphalted portion of the road, and fully within the shoulder thereof, the width of which being more than sufficient to accommodate the bus. When the BTCO bus driver slowed down his BTCO bus to permit said passenger to disembark, he must have known, therefore, that the Biñan bus would overtake the calesa at about the time when the latter and BTCO bus would probably be on the same line, on opposite sides of the asphalted portions of the road, and that the space between the BTCO bus and the "calesa" would not be enough to allow the Biñan bus to go through. It is true that the driver of the Biñan bus should have slowed down or stopped, and, hence, was reckless in not doing so; but, he had no especial obligations toward the passengers of the BTCO unlike the BTCO bus driver whose duty was to exercise "utmost" or "extraordinary" diligence for their safety. Perez was thus under obligation to avoid a situation which would be hazardous for his passengers, and, make their safety dependent upon the diligence of the Biñan driver. 

In an action based on a contract of carriage, the court need not make an express finding of fault or negligence on the part of the carrier in order to hold it responsible to pay the damages sought for by the passenger. By the contract of carriage, the carrier assumes the express obligation to transport the passenger to his destination safely and to observe extraordinary diligence with a due regard for all the circumstances, and any injury that might be suffered by the passenger is right away attributable to the fault or negligence of the carrier (Article 1756, new Civil Code). This is an exception to the general rule that negligence must be proved, and it is therefore incumbent upon the carrier to prove that it has exercised extraordinary diligence as prescribed in Articles 1733 and 1755 of the new Civil Code.

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