Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Oriental Commercial Co. Inc. vs. La Naviera Filipina Inc.

Facts: The municipal treasurer of Occidental Mindoro loaded on La Naviera’s steamship F. Escano a Demountable typewriter, consigned to Oriental’s branch at Cebu. The vessel arrived at the port of Cebu but no one claimed the typewriter. Consequently, La Naviera stored it. After a lapse of 2 years, a certain Velasco claimed the typewriter under the name of Oriental. He was informed to come back the next day and present the bill of lading. No one came back. After the lapse of another year, Oriental’s attorney wrote to La Naviera requesting for the delivery of the typewriter or its value. After several failed negotiations, Oriental filed a complaint alleging that La Naviera had converted to its own use the said typewriter. La Naviera admits receiving the typewriter but avers that neither the consignee nor any representative had appeared to take the delivery and as such Oriental is still liable to them for certain storage fees. 

Oriental avers that the carrier was under the obligation to notify the consignee and due to its failure, it had no right to collect any storage fees. La Naviera contends that it was not obligated to inform Oriental and assuming that they were, they did not know its address. 

The CFI-Manila ruled that La Naviera deliver the typewriter upon the payment of the storage fees it owed. Hence this appeal 

Issue: Whether carrier is obliged to notify the consignee of the arrival of the consignment 

Held: No. CFI-Manila decision affirmed with modification as to the storage charges. 

Carrier is not expected to give notice of the arrival of the goods. Because requiring the shipper to send to the consignee a copy of a bill of lading implies that the notice of the shipment shall come that way to the latter; and secondly, presuming that the consignee has been so notified, tacitly imposes on him the duty to watch for the arrival of the goods and compels him to take delivery before they are unloaded, under the penalty of having to pay storage charges. 

Art. 706 of the Code of Commerce does not require the address of the consignee to be set forth in the bill of lading. It would be absurd to impose the obligation to notify where the address of the person to be notified is not known. Also a bill of lading is transferable from person to person. 

Though Oriental tried to prove that sea carriers are required to give notice of the arrival of the goods, a testimony to the contrary was provided by La Naviera. Thus the alleged custom or usage has not been sufficiently established. 

La Naviera has not failed to comply with any condition precedent and has the right to collect storage charges. Oriental by refusing to pay the storage fees, may not demand the delivery of the typewriter.

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