Thursday, February 23, 2012

La Mallorca v. Court of Appeals (17 SCRA 739)

Facts: Plaintiffs husband and wife, together with their minor children, boarded a La Mallorca bus. Upon arrival at their destination, plaintiffs and their children alighted from the bus and the father led them to a shaded spot about 5 meters from the vehicle. The father returned to the bus to get a piece of baggage which was not unloaded. He was followed by her daughter Raquel. While the father was still on the running board awaiting for the conductor to give his baggage, the bus started to run so that the father had to jump. Raquel, who was near the bus, was run over and killed. 

Lower court rendered judgment for the plaintiff which was affirmed by CA, holding La Mallorca liable for quasi-delict and ordering it to pay P6,000 plus P400. La Mallorco contended that when the child was killed, she was no longer a passenger and therefore the contract of carriage terminated. 

Issue: Whether or not the contractual obligation between the parties ceases the moment the passenger alighted form the vehicle. 

Held: On the question whether the liability of the carrier, as to the child who was already led a place 5 meters from the bus under the contract of carrier, still persists, we rule in the affirmative. It is a recognized rules that the relation between carrier and passengers does not cease at the moment the passenger alights from the carrier’s premises, to be determined from the circumstances. In this case, there was no utmost diligence. Firstly, the driver, although stopping the bus, did not put off the engine. Secondly, he started to run the bus even before the bus conductor gave him the signal and while the latter was unloading cargo. Here, the presence of said passenger near the bus was not unreasonable and the duration of responsibility still exists. Averment of quasi-delict is permissible under the Rules of Court, although incompatible with the contract of carriage. The Rules of Court allows the plaintiffs to allege causes of action in the alternative, be they compatible with each other or not (Sec. 2, Rule 1). Even assuming arguendo that the contract of carriage has already terminated, herein petitioner can be held liable for the negligence of its driver pursuant to Art. 2180 of NCC. Decision MODIFIED. Only question raised in the briefs can be passed upon, and as plaintiffs did not appeals the award of P3,000.00 the increase by the CA of the award to P6,000.00 cannot be sustained. 

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