G.R. No. L-22272, 26 June 1967, 20 SCRA 412


Rogelio Corachea, on October 18, 1960, was a passenger owned and operated by Pascual Perez, was stabbed and killed by the driver, Simeon Valenzuela. Valenzuela was found guilty for homicide by the Court of First Instance and was sentenced to suffer imprisonment and to indemnify the heirs of the deceased in the sum of P6,000. While pending appeal, mother of deceased filed an action in the Court of First Instance of Batangas to recover damages from Perez and Valenzuela. Defendant Perez claimed that the death was “caso fortuito” for which the carrier was not liable. The court a quo, after trial, found for the plaintiff and awarded her P3,000 as damages against the defendant Perez. The claim against Valenzuela was dismissed. From this ruling, both plaintiff and defendant Perez appealed to this court, the former asking for more damages and the latter insisting on non-liability. Defendant-appellant relied solely on the ruling enunciated in Gillaco vs. Manila Railroad Co. that the carrier is under no absolute liability for assaults of its employees upon the passengers.


Whether or not Perez should be held liable for the death of the passenger?


The basis of the carrier’s liability for assaults on passengers committed by its drivers rests on the principle that it is the carrier’s implied duty to transport the passenger safely. As between the carrier and the passenger, the former must bear the risk of wrongful acts or negligence of the carrier’s employees against passengers, since it, and not the passengers, has power to select and remove them. Common carriers are liable for the death of or injuries to passengers through the negligence or willful acts of the former’s employees, although such employees may have acted beyond the scope of their authority or in violation of the orders of the common carriers. The liability of the common carriers does not cease upon proof that they exercised all the diligence of a good father of the family in the selection and supervision of their employees. (Art. 1759)

The attendant facts and controlling law of that case and the one at bar were very different. In the Gillaco case, the passenger was killed outside the scope and the course of duty of the guilty employee. The Gillaco case was decided under the provision of the Civil Code of 1889 which, unlike the present Civil Code, did not impose upon common carriers absolute liability for the safety of passengers against willful assaults or negligent acts committed by their employees. The death of the passenger in the Gillaco case was truly a fortuitous event which exempted the carrier from liability. It is true that Art. 1105 of the old Civil Code on fortuitous event has been substantially reproduced in Art. 1174 of the Civil Code of the Philippines but both articles clearly remove from their exempting effect the case where the law expressly provides for liability in spite of the occurrence of force majeure. The Civil Code provisions on the subject common carriers are new and were taken from Anglo-American law. The basis of the carrier’s liability for assaults on passengers committed by its drivers rested either on the doctrine or respondent superior or the principle that it was the carrier’s implied duty to transport the passenger safely. Under the second view, upheld by the majority and also by the later cases, it was enough that the assault happens within the course of the employee’s duty. It was no defense for the carrier that the act was done in excess of authority or in disobedience of the carrier’s orders. The carrier’s liability here was absolute in the sense that it practically secured the passengers from assaults committed by its own employees.

*Case digest by AG Himang, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019