Fortune Express, Inc. v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 119756, 18 November 1999, 305 SCRA 15

FACTS:

On November 18, 1989, a bus of petitioner figured in an accident with a jeepney in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, resulting in the death of several passengers of the jeepney, including two Maranaos. Crisanto Generalao, a volunteer field agent of the Constabulary Regional Security Unit, conducted an investigation of the accident. He found that the owner of the jeepney was a Maranao residing in Delabayan, Lanao del Norte and that certain Maranaos were planning to take revenge on the petitioner by burning some of its buses. Generalao went to see Diosdado Bravo, operations manager of petitioner, and informed him about the plot of the Maranaos. Bravo assured him that the necessary precautions to insure the safety of lives and property would be taken.

Several days later, Atty. Caorong was on board a bus to Iligan when three Maranaos went on board the vehicle. The leader of the group ordered the passengers to leave the bus. Atty. Caorong later went back to get something when he saw that the Maranaos were already pouring gasoline on the bus and on the driver. Atty. Caorong pleaded for the life of the driver, after which the driver jumped out of the vehicle.Caorong was shot to death as a result.

RTC dismissed the complaint stating that Fortune was not negligent. Disregarding the suggestion ofproviding its buses with security guards is not an omission of petitioner’s duty. The evidence showed that the assailants did not intend to harm the passengers. The death of Atty. Caorong was an unexpected and unforeseen occurrence beyondpetitioner’s control.

CA REVERSED RTC’s ruling:Fortune is negligent. Despite the tip to Manager Bravo of the devious plan by several Maranaos, management did not do not take any safety precautions at all.One available safeguard that could have absolved Fortunefrom liability was frisking of incoming passengers en route to dangerous areas and bag inspection at the terminals, which Fortune failed to do. The frisking system is not novel insensitive and dangerous places. Many companies adopt this measure. Fortune did “absolutely nothing”

ISSUE:

1. W/N Petitioner is liable for the death of Atty. Caorong by failing totakenecessary precautions to ensure the safety of its passengers;
2. W/N the attack by the Maranaos constituted causo fortuito?

RULING:

1. Petitioner is liable.
Article 1763 holds common carriers liable for the injuries to passengers caused by the wilful act of other passengers, if its employees failed to exercise the diligence of a good father in preventing the act.
• Despite the warning by the constabulary officer, petitioner did nothing to protect the safety of its passengers. If petitioner took the necessary precautions, they would have discovered the weapons and the large quantity of gasoline the malefactors carried with them. A common carrier is liable for failing to prevent hijacking by frisking passengers and inspecting baggages.
• Petitioner is solely liable for Atty. Caorong’s death. There was no contributory negligence on the part of the victim, since all he did was pleading for the life of the driver. His heroic effort was neither an act of negligence or recklessness.
From the foregoing, it is evident that petitioner’s employees failed to prevent the attack on one of petitioner’s buses because they did not exercise the diligence of a good father of a family. Hence, petitioner should be held liable for the death of Atty. Caorong.

2. Seizure of Petitioner’s Bus is not a Case of Force Majeure
Art. 1174 of the Civil Code defines a fortuitous event as an occurence which could not be foreseen, is inevitable. To be considered as force majeure, it is necessary that (1) the cause of the breach of the obligation must be independent of the human will; (2) the event must be either unforeseeable or unavoidable; (3) the occurence must be render it impossible for the debtor to fulfill the obligation in a normal manner; and (4) the obligor must be free of participation in, or aggravation of, the injury to the creditor. The absence of any of the requisites mentioned above would prevent the obligor from being excused from liability.

Thus, in Vasquez v. Court of Appeals, it was held that the common carrier was liable for its failure to take the necessary precautions against an approaching typhoon, of which it was warned, resulting in the loss of the lives of several passengers. The event was forseeable, and, thus, the second requisite mentioned above was not fulfilled. This ruling applies by analogy to the present case. Despite the report of PC agent Generalao that the Maranaos were going to attack its buses, petitioner took no steps to safeguard the lives and properties of its passengers. The seizure of the bus of the petitioner was foreseeable and, therefore, was not a fortuitous event which would exempt petitioner from liabilty.

*Case digest by Carolyn Kaye A. Tulang, LLB-4, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019

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