Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 94151, 30 April 1991, 196 SCRA 570

FACTS:

The carrier in this case is Eastern Shipping Lines Inc while the shipper/consignee is Stresstek Post Tensioning Philippines Inc. The insurer is the First Nationwide Assurance Corporation while the Arrastre Operator is E. Razon Inc.

Eastern Shipping Lines Inc shipped uncoated 7-wire stress relieved wire strand for prestressed concrete were shipped on board the vessel “Japri Venture,”. Upon arrival at the port of Manila, it discharged the cargo to the custody of the defendant E. Razon, Inc. from whom the consignee’s customs broker received it for delivery to the consignee’s warehouse. First Nationwide Assurance, indemnified the consignee in the amount of P171,923.00 for damage and loss to the insured cargo, whereupon the former was subrogated for the latter. The insurer now seeks to recover from the defendants what it has indemnified the consignee. The petitioner protested alleging that it should not be held liable to answer for damages for the event that caused the rusting of the goods was due to the “encountered very rough seas and stormy weather” classified as force majeure, hence relieving them of any liability. Aggrieved, respondent filed a case against petitioner.

The RTC dismissed the case but the CA set aside the RTC’s decision and ordered petitioner to pay respondent.

ISSUE:

Whether or not petitioner was negligent and should be held liable for the payment of damages.

HELD:

YES. Plainly, the heavy seas and rains referred to in the master’s report were not caso fortuito, but normal occurrences that an ocean-going vessel, particularly in the month of September which, in our area, is a month of rains and heavy seas would encounter as a matter of routine. They are neither unforeseen nor unforeseeable. These are conditions that ocean-going vessels would encounter and provide for, in the ordinary course of a voyage. That rain water (not sea water) found its way into the holds of the Japri Venture is a clear indication that care and foresight did not attend the closing of the ship’s hatches so that rainwater would not find its way into the cargo holds of the ship.

Moreover, under Article 1733 of the Civil Code, common carriers are bound to observe “extra-ordinary vigilance over goods . . . .according to all circumstances of each case,” and Article 1735 of the same Code states, to wit:

Art. 1735. In all cases other than those mentioned in Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the preceding article, if the goods are lost, destroyed or deteriorated, common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently, unless they prove that they observed extraordinary diligence as required in article 1733.

Since the carrier has failed to establish any caso fortuito, the presumption by law of fault or negligence on the part of the carrier applies; and the carrier must present evidence that it has observed the extraordinary diligence required by Article 1733 of the Civil Code in order to escape liability for damage or destruction to the goods that it had admittedly carried in this case. No such evidence exists of record. Thus, the carrier cannot escape liability.

The presumption, therefore, that the cargo was in apparent good condition when it was delivered by the vessel to the arrastre operator by the clean tally sheets has been overturned and traversed. The evidence is clear to the effect that the damage to the cargo was suffered while aboard petitioner’s vessel.

*Case digest by Allain Jay Gumela, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019

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