GR No. L33722, 29 July 1988
Private respondent Mariano Soriano was the principal of the Gabaldon Primary School in Pangasinan. Defendant Edgardo Aquino was a teacher therein. During that time, the school had several concrete blocks which were remnants of the old school shop destroyed in World War II. Defendant decided to help clear the area so he gathered 18 of his male students and ordered them to dig beside a one ton concrete block in making a hole where the stone can be buried. It was left unfinished so the following day he called 4 of the 18 students including the NovelitoYlarde to complete the excavation. Defendant left the children to level the loose soil while he went to see Banez for the key to the school workroom where he can get some rope. It was alleged that before leaving, he told the children “not to touch the stone”. After he left, the children playfully jumped into the pit when suddenly the concrete block slide down. Unfortunately, NovelitoYlarde was pinned to the wall causing serious physical injuries which as a consequence led to his death, 3 days thereafter. The parents of the victim, herein petitioners, filed a suit for damages against both Aquino and Soriano.
WON both Soriano and Aquino can be held liable for damages.
No. As given by Art. 2180, only the teachers are liable for the damages caused by their pupils.
Art 2180 paragraph 7 states “Lastly, teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades shall be liable for damages caused by their pupils and students or apprentices, so long as they remain in their custody.”
As regards the principal, we hold that he cannot be made responsible for the death of the child Ylarde, he being the head of an academic school and not a school of arts and trades. This is in line with our ruling in Amadora v Court of Appeals, 4 wherein this Court thoroughly discussed the doctrine that under Article 2180 of the Civil Code, it is only the teacher and not the head of an academic school that should be answerable for torts committed by their students.
As held in Amadora vs CA, “it is only the teacher and not the head of an academic school that should be answerable for torts committed by their students”. Where the school is academic rather than technical or vocational in nature, responsibility for the tort committed by the student will attach to the teacher in charge of such student, this is the general rule. However, in cases of establishments of arts and trades, it is the head thereof, and only he, who shall be held liable as an exception to the general rule. In other words, teachers in general shall be liable for the acts of their students except where the school is technical in nature, in which case it is the head thereof that shall be answerable. Hence, Soriano as principal cannot be held liable for the reason that the school he heads is an academic school and he did not give any instruction regarding the digging.
A teacher who stands in loco parentis to his students should make sure that the children are protected from all harm. The excavation instructed clearly exposed the students to risk and should not be placed under the category of Work Education such as school gardening, planting trees etc. Aquino acted with fault and gross negligence where instead of availing himself of adult manual laborers he instead utilized his students. Furthermore, the warning given is not sufficient to cast away all serious danger that the concrete block adjacent to the excavation would present to the children. He is therefore ordered to pay damages to the petitioners.
* Case digest by Desmarc G. Malate, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018