Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Mendoza vs. Arrieta, 91 SCRA 113

Facts: On October 22, 1969, at around 4pm, a 3-way vehicular accident occurred along Mac-Arthur Highway Bulacan, involving a Mercedez Benz owned and driven by petitioner, a private jeep owned and driven by respondent Salazar and a gravel and sand truck owned by respondent Timbol and driven by Montoya. As a consequence, separate informations were filed against Salazar and Montoya.

At the trial, petitioner testified that Salazar overtook the truck, swerved to the left and hit his car. He further testified that before impact, Salazar jumped from the jeep not knowing that Salazar was hit by the truck of Montoya. Montoya affirmed this. On the other hand, Salazar tried to show that after overtaking the truck, he flashed a signal showing his intention to turn left but was stopped at by a policeman directing traffic at the intersection which he contends to be the time he was hit by the truck causing his jeep to hit petitioner’s car.

(1) Whether or not the damages ensued to the vehicle of petitioner shall be the liability of the driver of the jeep or of the truck.

(2) Whether or not the truck’s owner may be held liable for damages caused by him employee.

Held: Thus, the trial Court absolved jeep-owner-driver Salazar of any liability, civil and criminal, in view of its findings that the collision between Salazar's jeep and petitioner's car was the result of the former having been bumped from behind by the truck driven by Montoya. Neither was petitioner awarded damages as he was not a complainant against truck-driver Montoya but only against jeep-owner-driver Salazar.

That petitioner's cause of action against Timbol in the civil case is based on quasi-delict is evident from the recitals in the complaint to wit: that while petitioner was driving his car along MacArthur Highway at Marilao, Bulacan, a jeep owned and driven by Salazar suddenly swerved to his (petitioner's) lane and collided with his car That the sudden swerving of Salazar's jeep was caused either by the negligence and lack of skill of Freddie Montoya, Timbol's employee, who was then driving a gravel and sand truck iii the same direction as Salazar's jeep; and that as a consequence of the collision, petitioner's car suffered extensive damages. Clearly, therefore, the two factors that a cause of action must consist of, namely: (1) plaintiff's primary right, i.e., that he is the owner of a Mercedes Benz, and (2) defendant's delict or wrongful act or omission which violated plaintiff's primary right, i.e., the negligence or lack of skill either of jeep-owner Salazar or of Timbol's employee, Montoya, in driving the truck, causing Salazar's jeep to swerve and collide with petitioner's car, were alleged in the Complaint.

Consequently, petitioner's cause of action being based on quasi-delict, respondent Judge committed reversible error when he dismissed the civil suit against the truck-owner, as said case may proceed independently of the criminal proceedings and regardless of the result of the latter.

In view of what has been proven and established during the trial, accused Freddie Montoya would be held able for having bumped and hit the rear portion of the jeep driven by the accused Rodolfo Salazar. Considering that the collision between the jeep driven by Rodolfo Salazar and the car owned and driven by Edgardo Mendoza was the result of the hitting on the rear of the jeep by the truck driven by Freddie Montoya, this Court behaves that accused Rodolfo Salazar cannot be held able for the damages sustained by Edgardo Mendoza's car.

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