G.R. No. L-47822, 22 December 1988, 186 SCRA 612


Petitioner Pedro de Guzman a merchant and authorized dealer of General Milk Company (Philippines), Inc. in Urdaneta, Pangasinan, contracted with respondent for the hauling of 750 cartons of Liberty filled milk from a warehouse of General Milk in Makati, Rizal, to petitioner’s establishment in Urdaneta on or before 4 December 1970. Accordingly, on 1 December 1970, respondent loaded in Makati the merchandise on to his trucks: 150 cartons were loaded on a truck driven by respondent himself, while 600 cartons were placed on board the other truck which was driven by Manuel Estrada, respondent’s driver and employee.
Only 150 boxes of Liberty filled milk were delivered to petitioner. The other 600 boxes never reached petitioner, since the truck which carried these boxes was hijacked somewhere along the MacArthur Highway in Paniqui, Tarlac, by armed men who took with them the truck, its driver, his helper and the cargo.
On 6 January 1971, petitioner commenced action against private respondent in the Court of First Instance of Pangasinan, demanding payment of P 22,150.00, the claimed value of the lost merchandise, plus damages and attorney’s fees. Petitioner argued that private respondent, being a common carrier, and having failed to exercise the extraordinary diligence required of him by the law, should be held liable for the value of the undelivered goods.
In his Answer, private respondent denied that he was a common carrier and argued that he could not be held responsible for the value of the lost goods, such loss having been due to force majeure.


Whether or not private respondent Ernesto Cendana may, under the facts earlier set forth, be properly characterized as a common carrier.

The Civil Code defines “common carriers” in the following terms:
Article 1732. Common carriers are persons, corporations, firms or associations engaged in the business of carrying or transporting passengers or goods or both, by land, water, or air for compensation, offering their services to the public.
The above article makes no distinction between one whose principal business activity is the carrying of persons or goods or both, and one who does such carrying only as an ancillary activity (in local Idiom as “a sideline”). Article 1732 also carefully avoids making any distinction between a person or enterprise offering transportation service on a regular or scheduled basis and one offering such service on an occasional, episodic or unscheduled basis. Neither does Article 1732 distinguish between a carrier offering its services to the “general public,” i.e., the general community or population, and one who offers services or solicits business only from a narrow segment of the general population..
It appears to the Court that private respondent is properly characterized as a common carrier even though he merely “back-hauled” goods for other merchants from Manila to Pangasinan, although such back-hauling was done on a periodic or occasional rather than regular or scheduled manner, and even though private respondent’s principal occupation was not the carriage of goods for others. There is no dispute that private respondent charged his customers a fee for hauling their goods; that fee frequently fell below commercial freight rates is not relevant here.

*Case digest by Ana Azalea O. Adraincem, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, S.Y 2018-2019