British Airways v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 121824, 29 January 1998, 285 SCRA 450

FACTS:

On April 16, 1989, Mahtani decided to visit his relatives in Bombay, India. In anticipation of his visit, he obtained the services of a certain Mr. Gumar to prepare his travel plans. The latter, in turn, purchased a ticket from BA.

Since BA had no direct flights from Manila to Bombay, Mahtani had to take a flight to Hongkong via PAL, and upon arrival in Hongkong he had to take a connecting flight to Bombay on board BA.
Prior to his departure, Mahtani checked in at the PAL counter in Manila his two pieces of luggage containing his clothings and personal effects, confident that upon reaching Hongkong, the same would be transferred to the BA flight bound for Bombay.

Unfortunately, when Mahtani arrived in Bombay he discovered that his luggage was missing and that upon inquiry from the BA representatives, he was told that the same might have been diverted to London. After patiently waiting for his luggage for one week, BA finally advised him to file a claim by accomplishing the Property Irregularity Report.[4]

Mahtani filed his complaint for damages and attorneys fees[5] against BA and Mr. Gumar before the trial court.

BA filed its answer with counter claim[6] to the complaint raising, as special and affirmative defenses, that Mahtani did not have a cause of action against it.
After appropriate proceedings and trial, on March 4, 1993, the trial court rendered its decision in favor of Mahtani. Defendant is ordered to pay plaintiff the sum of Seven Thousand (P7,000.00) Pesos for the value of the two (2) suit cases; Four Hundred U.S. ($400.00) Dollars representing the value of the contents of plaintiffs luggage; Fifty Thousand (P50,000.00) Pesos for moral and actual damages and twenty percent (20%) of the total amount imposed against the defendant for attorneys fees and costs of the action.

CA affirmed the decision of the trial court in toto. Hence, this petition asserting that that the award of compensatory damages and attorneys fees for the loss of Mahtanis two pieces of luggage was without basis since Mahtani failed to declare a higher valuation with respect to his luggage, a condition provided for in the ticket, which reads“Liability for loss, delay, or damage to baggage is limited unless a higher value is declared in advance and additional charges are paid.”
Since Mahtani failed to declare a separate higher valuation for the luggage,and therefore, its liability is limited, at most, only to the amount stated in the ticket.

ISSUE:

Whether or not in a contract of air carriage a declaration by the passenger is needed to recover a greater amount?

RULING:

American jurisprudence provides that an air carrier is not liable for the loss of baggage in an amount in excess of the limits specified in the tariff which was filed with the proper authorities, such tariff being binding on the passenger regardless of the passenger’s lack of knowledge thereof or assent thereto. This doctrine is recognized in this jurisdiction.

However, the benefits of limited liability are subject to waiver such as when the air carrier failed to raise timely objections during the trial when questions and answers regarding the actual claims and damages sustained by the passenger were asked.[23]

The inescapable conclusion that BA had waived the defense of limited liability when it allowed Mahtani to testify as to the actual damages he incurred due to misplacement of his luggage, without any objection.

It is a well-settled doctrine that where the proponent offers evidence deemed by counsel of the adverse party to be inadmissible for any reason, the latter has the right to object. However, such right is a mere privilege which can be waived. Necessarily, the objection must be made at the earliest opportunity, in case of silence when there is opportunity to speak may operate as a waiver of objections.

*Case digest by Karen S. Tindugan, LLB-4, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019

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