Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mapa vs. CA

Facts: Plaintiffs Cornelio Mapa and Purita Mapa entered into contract of air transportation with defendant TWA as evidenced by TWA tickets. Said TWA tickets are for Los Angeles-New York-Boston-St. Louis-Chicago. 

The domicile of carrier TWA is Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Its principal place of business is Kansas City, Missouri, USA. TWA's place of business through which the contracts were made is Bangkok, Thailand. The place of destination is Chicago, USA. 

On August 10, 1990, plaintiffs Carmina (daughter of Cornelio and Purita) and Purita left Manila on board a PAL flight for Los Angeles. Carmina was to commence schooling and thus was accompanied by Purita to assist her in settling down at the University. 

They arrived Los Angeles on the same date and stayed there until August 14, 1990 when they left for New York City on a TWA flight. On August 27, 1990, plaintiffs Purita and Carmina S. Mapa departed for Boston, checking in seven (7) pieces of luggage at the TWA counter in the JFK Airport. They were issued receipts for the said baggage. 

Upon arriving in Boston, plaintiffs Purita and Carmina proceeded to the carousel to claim their baggages and found only three out of the seven they checked in. Plaintiffs immediately reported the loss of their four baggages to the TWA Baggage Office at Logan Airport. TWA's representative confidently assured them that their baggages would be located within 24 hours and not more than 48 hours. 

They were requested to accomplish a passenger property questionnaire to facilitate a further intensive and computerized search for the lost luggage, which they duly accomplished. The total value of the lost items amounted to $11,283.79. 

Two months later, TWA offered to amicably settle the case by giving plaintiffs-appellants two options: (a) transportation credit for future TWA travel or (b) cash settlement. Five months lapsed without any result on TWA's intensive search. 

Plaintiffs-appellant opted for transportation credit for future TWA travel. TWA disregarded plaintiffs' option and unilaterally declared the payment of $2,560.00 as constituting full satisfaction of the plaintiffs' claim. Plaintiffs accepted the check for $2,560.00, as partial payment for the actual cost of their lost baggages and their contents. 

Despite demands by plaintiffs, TWA failed and refused without just cause to indemnify and redress plaintiffs for the grave injury and damages they have suffered. 

Petitioners then filed a complaint for damages and complaint for breach of contract of carriage against TWA in the RTC. The trial court dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction in light of Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention. 

The CA affirmed the order of the trial court. It held that the Warsaw Convention is the law which governs the dispute between the petitioners and TWA because what is involved is international transportation defined by said Convention in Article I(2). This holding is founded on its determination that the two TWA tickets for Los Angeles-New York-Boston-St. Louis-Chicago purchased in Bangkok, Thailand, were issued in conjunction with, and therefore formed part of, the contract of transportation performed from Manila, Philippines, to the United States. 

The respondent court further held that the cause of action of the petitioners arose from the loss of the four checked pieces of baggage, which then falls under Article 18(1), Chapter III (Liability of the Carrier) of the Warsaw Conventions. Pursuant to Article 24(1) of the Convention, all actions for damages, whether based on tort, code law or common law, arising from loss of baggage under Article 18 of the Warsaw Convention, can only be brought subject to the conditions and limits set forth in the Warsaw Convention. Article 28(1) thereof sets forth conditions and limits in that the action for damages may be instituted only in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, before the court of (1) the domicile of the carrier, (2) the carrier's principal place of business, (3) the place of business through which the contract has been made, or (4) the place of destination. Since the Philippines is not one of these places, a Philippine Court, like the RTC, has no jurisdiction over the complaint for damages. 

Issue: Whether the Warsaw Convention is applicable to this case 

Held: No, the Warsaw Convention is not applicable because the carriage or transportation was not international in character. The RTC is directed to proceed with pre-trial. 

It appears clear to us that TWA itself, the trial court, and the Court of Appeals impliedly admit that if the sole basis were the two TWA tickets for Los Angeles-New York-Boston-St. Louis-Chicago, the contracts cannot be brought within the term "international transportation," as defined in Article I(2) of the Warsaw Convention. As provided therein, a contract is one of international transportation only if according to the contract made by the parties, the place of departure and the place of destination, whether or not there be a break in the transportation or a transshipment, are situated either within the territories of two High Contracting Parties, or within the territory of a single High Contracting Party, if there is an agreed stopping place within a territory subject to the sovereignty, mandate or authority of another power, even though that power is not a party to this convention. 

There are then two categories of international transportation, (1) that where the place of departure and the place of destination are situated within the territories of two High Contracting Parties regardless of whether or not there be a break in the transportation or a transshipment; and (2) that where the place of departure and the place of destination are within the territory of a single High Contracting Party if there is an agreed stopping place within a territory subject to the sovereignty, mandate, or authority of another power, even though the power is not a party of the Convention. 

The contracts of transportation in this case are evidenced by the two TWA tickets, both purchased and issued in Bangkok, Thailand. On the basis alone of the provisions therein, it is obvious that the place of departure and the place of destination are all in the territory of the United States, or of a single High Contracting Party. The contracts, therefore, cannot come within the purview of the first category of international transportation. Neither can it be under the second category since there was NO agreed stopping place within a territory subject to the sovereignty, mandate, or authority of another power. 

The only way to bring the contracts between Purita and Carmina Mapa, on the one hand, and TWA, on the other, within the first category of "international transportation" is to link them with, or to make them an integral part of, the Manila-Los Angeles travel of Purita and Carmina through PAL aircraft. The "linkages" which have been pointed out by the TWA, the trial court, and the Court of Appeals are (1) the handwritten notations, on the two TWA tickets; and (2) the entries made by petitioners Purita and Carmina Mapa in column YOUR COMPLETE ITINERARY in TWA's Passenger Property Questionnaire, wherein they mentioned their travel from Manila to Los Angeles in flight PR 102. 

The alleged "international tickets" mentioned in the notations in conjunction with which the two TWA tickets were issued were not presented. Clearly then, there is at all no factual basis of the finding that the TWA tickets were issued in conjunction with the international tickets, which are even, at least as of now, non-existent. 

As regards the petitioner's entry in “Your Complete Itenerary” column of the Passenger Property Questionnaire wherein they included the Manila-Los Angeles travel, it must be pointed out that this was made by petitioners Purita and Carmina Mapa, and only in connection with their claim for their lost pieces of baggage. The entry can by no means be considered as a part of, or supplement to, their contracts of transportation evidenced by the TWA tickets which covered transportation within the United States only. 

It must be underscored that the first category of international transportation under the Warsaw Convention is based on "the contract made by the parties." TWA does not claim that the Manila-Los Angeles contracts of transportation which brought Purita and Carmina to Los Angeles were also its contracts. It does not deny the assertion of the petitioners that those contracts were independent of the TWA tickets issued in Bangkok, Thailand. No evidence was offered that TWA and PAL had an agreement concerning transportation of passengers from points of departures not served with aircrafts of one or the other. 

TWA relies on Article I(3) of the Convention, which provides as follows: 

3. A carriage to be performed by several successive air carriers is deemed, for the purposes of this Convention, to be one undivided carriage, if it has been regarded by the parties as a single operation, whether it had been agreed upon under the form of a single contract or of a series of contracts, and it shall not lose its international character merely because one contract or a series of contracts is to be performed entirely within a territory subject to the sovereignty, suzerainty, mandate, or authority of the same High Contracting Party. 

The flaw of respondent's position is the presumption that the parties have "regarded" as an "undivided carriage" or as a "single operation" the carriage from Manila to Los Angeles through PAL then to New York-Boston-St. Louis-Chicago through TWA.

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