Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Consolidated Bank and Trust Corporation vs. CA [G.R. No. 138569, Sept. 11, 2003]

Facts: Private respondent L.C. Diaz instructed his employee, Calapre, to deposit in his savings account in petitioner bank. Calapre left the passbook of L.C. Diaz to the teller of the petitioner bank because it was taking time to accomplish the transaction and he had to go to another bank. When he returned, the teller told him that somebody got it. The following day, an impostor succeeded in withdrawing P300,000.00 by using said passbook and a falsified withdrawal slip. Private respondent sued the bank for the amount withdrawn by the impostor. 

The trial court dismissed the complaint but the CA reversed the decision of the trial court and held the bank liable. 

Issue: Whether or not petitioner bank is liable solely for the amount withdrawn by the impostor. 

Held: No. The bank is liable for breach of contract due to negligence or culpa contractual. 

The contract between the bank and its depositor is governed by the provisions of the Civil Code on simple loan. Article 1172 of the Civil Code provides that “responsibility arising from negligence in the performance of every kind of obligation is demandable”. The bank is liable to its depositor for breach of the savings deposit agreement due to negligence or culpa contractual. “The bank is under obligation to treat the accounts of its depositors with meticulous care, always having in mind the fiduciary nature of their relationship (Simex International vs. CA)”. 

The tellers know, or should know, that the rules on savings account provide that any person in possession of the passbook is presumptively its owner. If the tellers give the passbook to the wrong person, they would be clothing that person presumptive ownership of the passbook, facilitating unauthorized withdrawals by that person. 

The doctrine of last clear chance states that where both parties are negligent but the negligent act of one is appreciably later than that of the other, or where it is impossible to determine whose fault or negligence caused the loss, the one who had the last clear opportunity to avoid the loss but failed to do so, is chargeable with the loss. This doctrine is not applicable to the present case. The contributory negligence of the private respondent or his last clear chance to avoid the loss would not exonerate the petitioner from liability. However, it serves to reduce the recovery of damages by the private respondent. Under Article 1172, “the liability may be regulated by the courts, according to the circumstances”. In this case, respondent L.C. Diaz was guilty of contributory negligence in allowing a withdrawal slip signed by its authorized signatories to fall into the hands of an impostor. Thus, the liability of petitioner bank should be reduced. 

In PHILIPPINE BANK OF COMMERCE VS. CA, the Supreme Court allocated the damages between the depositor who is guilty of contributory negligence and the bank on a 40-60 ratio. The same ruling was applied to this case. Petitioner bank must pay only 60% of the actual damages. 


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