Austria vs. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. L-29640, June 10, 1971

FACTS:

On January 30, 1961, Maria G. Abad acknowledged that she received from Guillermo Austria one (1) pendant with diamonds to be sold on a commission basis or to be returned on demand. However, on February 1, 1961, while walking home to her residence, Abad was said to have been accosted by two men, one of whom hit her on the face, while the other snatched her purse containing jewelry and cash, and ran away.

Since Abad failed to return the jewelry or pay for its value notwithstanding demands, Austria brought in the Court of First Instance of Manila an action against her and her husband for recovery of the pendant or of its value, and damages. On their answer, the defendant spouses set up the defense that the alleged robbery had extinguished their obligation.

The trial court rendered judgment in favor for the plaintiff which is Austria. It held that defendant failed to prove the fact of robbery, or, if indeed it was committed, the defendant was guilty of negligence. The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals and secured a reversal of judgment. It declared respondents not responsible for the loss of the jewelry on account of fortuitous event, and relieved them from liability for damages to the owner. Hence, this case contending that for robbery to fall under the category of fortuitous event and relieve the obligor form his obligation under a contract, there ought to be prior judgment on the guilt of the persons responsible therefor.

ISSUE:

Whether in a contract of agency (consignment of goods for sale) it is necessary that there be prior conviction for robbery before the loss of the article shall exempt the consignee from liability for such loss.

RULING:

NO, the law provides that except in case expressly specified by law, or when it is otherwise declared by stipulation, or when the nature of the obligation require the assumption of risk, no person shall be responsible for those events which could not be foreseen, or which, though foreseen, were inevitable.

It must be noted that to avail of the exemption granted in the law, it is not necessary that the persons responsible for the occurrence should be punished; it would only be sufficient to establish that the enforceable event, the robbery in this case did take place without any concurrent fault on the debtor`s part, and this can be done by preponderant evidence.

It must also be noted that a court finding that a robbery has happened would not necessarily mean that those accused in the criminal action should be found guilty of the crime; nor would be a ruling that those actually accused did not commit the robbery be inconsistent with a finding that a robbery did take place. The evidence to establish these facts would not necessarily be the same.

 * Case digest by Frilin Lomosad, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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