G.R. No. 124922, June 22, 1998, 291 SCRA 111
Private respondent undertook to return the vehicle on July 21, 1990 fully serviced and supplied in accordance with the job contract. After petitioner paid in full the repair bill in the amount of P1,397.00, private respondent issued to him a gate pass for the release of the vehicle on said date. But came July 21, 1990, the latter could not release the vehicle as its battery was weak and was not yet replaced. Left with no option, petitioner himself bought a new battery nearby and delivered it to private respondent for installation on the same day. However, the battery was not installed and the delivery of the car was rescheduled to July 24, 1990 or three (3) days later. When petitioner sought to reclaim his car in the afternoon of July 24, 1990, he was told that it was carnapped earlier that morning while being road-tested by private respondents employee along Pedro Gil and Perez Streets in Paco, Manila. Private respondent said that the incident was reported to the police.
Whether or not a repair shop can be held liable for the loss of a customers’ vehicle due to carnapping while the same is in its custody for repair or other job services?
It is a not a defense for a repair shop of motor vehicles to escape liability simply because the damage or loss of a thing lawfully placed in its possession was due to carnapping. Carnapping per se cannot be considered as a fortuitous event. The fact that a thing was unlawfully and forcefully taken from another’s rightful possession, as in cases of carnapping, does not automatically give rise to a fortuitous event. Assuming further that there was no delay, still working against private respondent is the legal presumption under Article 1265 that its possession of the thing at the time it was lost was due to its fault. This presumption is reasonable since he who has the custody and care of the thing can easily explain the circumstances of the loss. The vehicle owner has no duty to show that the repair shop was at fault. All that petitioner needs to prove, as claimant, is the simple fact that private respondent was in possession of the vehicle at the time it was lost. In this case, private respondents possession at the time of the loss is undisputed. Consequently, the burden shifts to the possessor who needs to present controverting evidence sufficient enough to overcome that presumption. Moreover, the exempting circumstances – earthquake, flood, storm or other natural calamity – when the presumption of fault is not applicable do not concur in this case. Accordingly, having failed to rebut the presumption and since the case does not fall under the exceptions, private respondent is answerable for the loss.
* Case digest by Daisy Mae Tambolero, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018