Monday, February 27, 2012

Republic vs. Luzon Stevedoring Corporation

Facts: In the early afternoon of August 17, 1960, barge L-1892, owned by the Luzon Stevedoring Corporation was being towed down the Pasig river by tugboats "Bangus" and "Barbero"1 also belonging to the same corporation, when the barge rammed against one of the wooden piles of the Nagtahan bailey bridge, smashing the posts and causing the bridge to list. The river, at the time, was swollen and the current swift, on account of the heavy downpour of Manila and the surrounding provinces on August 15 and 16, 1960. Sued by the Republic of the Philippines for actual and consequential damage caused by its employees, amounting to P200,000 (Civil Case No. 44562, CFI of Manila), defendant Luzon Stevedoring Corporation disclaimed liability therefor, on the grounds that it had exercised due diligence in the selection and supervision of its employees; that the damages to the bridge were caused by force majeure; that plaintiff has no capacity to sue; and that the Nagtahan bailey bridge is an obstruction to navigation. 

Issue: Whether or not the collision of appellant's barge with the supports or piers of the Nagtahan bridge was in law caused by fortuitous event or force majeure 

Held: For caso fortuito or force majeure (which in law are identical in so far as they exempt an obligor from liability)2 by definition, are extraordinary events not foreseeable or avoidable, "events that could not be foreseen, or which, though foreseen, were inevitable" (Art. 1174, Civ. Code of the Philippines). It is, therefore, not enough that the event should not have been foreseen or anticipated, as is commonly believed, but it must be one impossible to foresee or to avoid. The mere difficulty to foresee the happening is not impossibility to foresee the same. Luzon Stevedoring Corporation, knowing and appreciating the perils posed by the swollen stream and its swift current, voluntarily entered into a situation involving obvious danger; it therefore assured the risk, and can not shed responsibility merely because the precautions it adopted turned out to be insufficient. Hence, the lower Court committed no error in holding it negligent in not suspending operations and in holding it liable for the damages caused. 

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