Eastern Shipping Lines v. Intermediate Appellate Court

G.R. No. L-69044, 29 May 1987, 150 SCRA 464

FACTS:

On December 4, 1981, two fiber drums of riboflavin were shipped from Yokohama, Japan for delivery vessel “SS EASTERN COMET” owned bydefendant Eastern Shipping Lines under a bill of lading. The shipment was insured under plaintiffs Marine Insurance Policy. Upon arrival of the shipmentin Manila on December 12, 1981, it was discharged unto the custody ofdefendant Metro Port Service, Inc. The latter excepted to one drum, said to be in bad order, which damage was unknown to plaintiff. On January 7, 1982 defendant Allied Brokerage Corporation receivedthe shipment from defendant Metro Port Service, Inc., one drum opened andwithout seal. On January 8 and 14, 1982, defendant Allied Brokerage Corporation made deliveries of the shipment to the consignees warehouse.

The latter excepted to one drum which contained spillages, while the rest ofthe contents was adulterated/fake. Plaintiff contended that due to the losses/damage sustained by saiddrum, the consignee suffered losses totaling P19, 032.95, due to the fault andnegligence of defendants. Claims were presented against defendantswhofailed and refused to pay the same. As a consequence of the lossessustained, plaintiff was compelled to pay the consignee P19, 032.95 undertheaforestated marine insurance policy, so that it became subrogated to allthe rights of action of said consignee against defendants.

ISSUE:

Whether or not a claim for damage sustained on a shipment of goods can be a solidary or joint and several, liability of the common carrier, the arrastre operator and the customs broker.

RULING:

The common carriers duty to observe the requisite diligence in the shipment of goods lasts from the time the articles are surrendered to orunconditionally placed in the possession of, and received by, the carrier fortransportation until delivered to, or until the lapse of a reasonable time fortheir acceptance by, the person entitled to receive them (Arts. 1736-1738,Civil Code). When the goods shipped either are lost or arrive in damaged condition, a presumption arises against the carrier of its failure to observe thatdiligence, and there need not be an express finding of negligence to hold itliable (Art. 1735, Civil Code). There are, of course, exceptional cases whensuch presumption of fault is not observed but these cases, enumerated inArticle 1734 of the Civil Code, are exclusive, not one of which can be appliedto this case.

As to the question of charging both the carrier and the arrastreoperator with the obligation of properly delivering the goods to the consignee,the legal relationship between the consignee and the arrastre operator is akin to that of a depositor and warehouseman while the relationship between theconsignee and the common carrier is similar to that of the consignee and thearrastre operator.

Since it is the duty of the arrastre to take good care of thegoods that are in its custody and to deliver them in good condition to theconsignee, such responsibility also devolves upon the carrier. Both the arrastre and the carrier are therefore charged with the obligation to deliver thegoods in good condition to the consignee. A factual finding of both theSupreme Court and the appellate court was that there was sufficient evidence that the shipment sustained damage while in the successive possession ofappellants. Accordingly, the liability imposed on Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc.,the sole petitioner in this case, is inevitable regardless of whether there are other ssolidarily liable with it.

*Case digest by Princess Dianne Kris S. Decierdo, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019

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