Saturday, February 25, 2012

Federal Express Corporation vs. American Home Assurance Company

Facts: On January 26, 1994, SMITHKLINE of Nebraska, USA delivered to BURLINGTON, an agent of petitioner Federal Express Corporation, a shipment of 109 cartons of veterinary biologicals for delivery to consignee SMITHKLINE and French Overseas Company in Makati City, Metro Manila. The shipment was covered by Burlington Airway Bill No. 11263825 with the words, 'REFRIGERATE WHEN NOT IN TRANSIT' and 'PERISHABLE' stamp marked on its face. That same day, Burlington insured the cargoes in the amount of $39,339.00 with American Home Assurance Company (AHAC). The following day, Burlington turned over the custody of said cargoes to Federal Express which transported the same to Manila. Prior to the arrival of the cargoes, Federal Express informed GETC Cargo International Corporation, the customs broker hired by the consignee to facilitate the release of its cargoes from the Bureau of Customs, of the impending arrival of its client's cargoes. 

On February 10, 1994, DARIO C. DIONEDA, twelve days after the cargoes arrived in Manila, a non-licensed custom's broker who was assigned by GETC to facilitate the release of the subject cargoes, found out, while he was about to cause the release of the said cargoes, that the same were stored only in a room with two air conditioners running, to cool the place instead of a refrigerator. Thereafter, DIONEDA, upon instructions from GETC, did not proceed with the withdrawal of the vaccines and instead, samples of the same were taken and brought to the Bureau of Animal Industry of the Department of Agriculture in the Philippines by SMITHKLINE for examination wherein it was discovered that the 'ELISA reading of vaccinates sera are below the positive reference serum. 

As a consequence of the foregoing result of the veterinary biologics test, SMITHKLINE abandoned the shipment and, declaring 'total loss' for the unusable shipment, filed a claim with AHAC through its representative in the Philippines, the Philam Insurance Co., Inc. which recompensed SMITHKLINE for the whole insured amount of $39,339.00. Thereafter, respondents filed an action for damages against the petitioner imputing negligence on either or both of them in the handling of the cargo. 

Issue: Whether or not petitioner's claim that respondents have no personality to sue because the payment was made by the respondents to Smithkline when the insured under the policy is Burlington Air Express is devoid of merit. 

Held: Upon receipt of the insurance proceeds, the consignee (Smithkline) executed a subrogation Receipt in favor of respondents. The latter were thus authorized "to file claims and begin suit against any such carrier, vessel, person, corporation or government." Undeniably, the consignee had a legal right to receive the goods in the same condition it was delivered for transport to petitioner. If that right was violated, the consignee would have a cause of action against the person responsible therefor. 

Upon payment to the consignee of an indemnity for the loss of or damage to the insured goods, the insurer's entitlement to subrogation pro tanto -- being of the highest equity -- equips it with a cause of action in case of a contractual breach or negligence. "Further, the insurer's subrogatory right to sue for recovery under the bill of lading in case of loss of or damage to the cargo is jurisprudentially upheld.” 

In the exercise of its subrogatory right, an insurer may proceed against an erring carrier. To all intents and purposes, it stands in the place and in substitution of the consignee. A fortiori, both the insurer and the consignee are bound by the contractual stipulations under the bill of lading. 

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