G.R. No. 122039, 31 May 2000, 332 SCRA 870
Sunga, then a college freshman majoring in Physical Education at the Siliman University, took a passenger jeepney owned and operated by petitioner Vicente Calalas. As the jeepney was filled to capacity of about 24 passengers, Sunga was given by the conductor an “extension seat,” a wooden stool at the back of the door at the rear end of the vehicle.
On the way to Poblacion Sibulan, Negros Occidental, the jeepney stopped to let a passenger off. As she was seated at the rear of the vehicle, Sunga gave way to the outgoing passenger. Just as she was doing so, an Isuzu truck driven by Iglecerio Verena and owned by Francisco Salva bumped the left rear portion of the jeepney. As a result, Sunga was injured. She sustained a fracture of the “distal third of the left tibia-fibula with severe necrosis of the underlying skin.”
Whether or not petitioner is liable on his contract of carriage.
In case of death or injuries to passengers, Art. 1756 of the Civil Code provides that common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently unless they prove that they observed extraordinary diligence as defined in Arts. 1733 and 1755 of the Code. This provision necessarily shifts to the common carrier the burden of proof.
It is immaterial that the proximate cause of the collision between the jeepney and the truck was the negligence of the truck driver. The doctrine of proximate cause is applicable only in actions for quasi-delict, not in actions involving breach of contract. The doctrine is a device for imputing liability to a person where there is no relation between him and another party. In such a case, the obligation is created by law itself. But, where there is a pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, it is the parties themselves who create the obligation, and the function of the law is merely to regulate the relation thus created. Insofar as contracts of carriage are concerned, some aspects regulated by the Civil Code are those respecting the diligence required of common carriers with regard to the safety of passengers as well as the presumption of negligence in cases of death or injury to passengers. It provides:
Art. 1733. Common carriers, from the nature of their business and for reasons of public policy, are bound to observe extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods and for the safety of the passengers transported by them, according to all the circumstances of each case.
Such extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods is further expressed in articles 1734, 1735, and 1746, Nos. 5,6, and 7, while the extraordinary diligence for the safety of the passengers is further set forth in articles 1755 and 1756.
Art. 1755. A common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with due regard for all the circumstances.
Art. 1756. In case of death of or injuries to passengers, common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently, unless they prove that they observed extraordinary diligence as prescribed by articles 1733 and 1755.
In the case at bar, upon the happening of the accident, the presumption of negligence at once arose, and it became the duty of petitioner to prove that he had to observe extraordinary diligence in the care of his passengers.
Now, did the driver of jeepney carry Sunga “safely as far as human care and foresight could provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with due regard for all the circumstances” as required by Art. 1755? We do not think so. Several factors militate against petitioner’s contention.
First, as found by the Court of Appeals, the jeepney was not properly parked, its rear portion being exposed about two meters from the broad shoulders of the highway, and facing the middle of the highway in a diagonal angle. This is a violation of the R.A. No. 4136, as amended, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which provides:
Sec. 54. Obstruction of Traffic. – No person shall drive his motor vehicle in such a manner as to obstruct or impede the passage of any vehicle, nor, while discharging or taking on passengers or loading or unloading freight, obstruct the free passage of other vehicles on the highway.
Second, it is undisputed that petitioner’s driver took in more passengers than the allowed seating capacity of the jeepney, a violation of 32(a) of the same law. It provides:
Exceeding registered capacity. – No person operating any motor vehicle shall allow more passengers or more freight or cargo in his vehicle than its registered capacity.
The fact that Sunga was seated in an “extension seat” placed her in a peril greater than that to which the other passengers were exposed. Therefore, not only was petitioner unable to overcome the presumption of negligence imposed on him for the injury sustained by Sunga, but also, the evidence shows he was actually negligent in transporting passengers.
We find it hard to give serious thought to petitioner’s contention that Sungas taking an “extension seat” amounted to an implied assumption of risk. It is akin to arguing that the injuries to the many victims of the tragedies in our seas should not be compensated merely because those passengers assumed a greater risk of drowning by boarding an overloaded ferry. This is also true of petitioner’s contention that the jeepney being bumped while it was improperly parked constitutes caso fortuito. A caso fortuito is an event which could not be foreseen, or which, though foreseen, was inevitable.This requires that the following requirements be present: (a) the cause of the breach is independent of the debtors will; (b) the event is unforeseeable or unavoidable; (c) the event is such as to render it impossible for the debtor to fulfill his obligation in a normal manner, and (d) the debtor did not take part in causing the injury to the creditor.Petitioner should have foreseen the danger of parking his jeepney with its body protruding two meters into the highway.
*Case digest by Terence Eyre B. Belangoy, LLB-4 (Refresher), Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019