G.R. No. 110398, 7 November 1997, 281 SCRA 534


In April of 1980, private respondent Ramon Miranda purchased from the Negros Navigation Co., Inc. four special cabin ticketsfor his wife, daughter, son and niece who were going to Bacolod City to attend a family reunion. The tickets were for Voyage of the M/V Don Juan, leaving Manila at 1:00 p.m. on April 22, 1980.

The ship sailed from the port of Manila on schedule.

At about 10:30 in the evening of April 22, 1980, the Don Juan collided off the Tablas Strait in Mindoro, with the M/T Tacloban City, an oil tanker owned by the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and the PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation (PNOC/STC). As a result, the M/V Don Juan sank. Several of her passengers perished in the sea tragedy. The bodies of some of the victims were found and brought to shore, but the four members of private respondents’ families were never found.

Private respondents filed a complaint on July 16, 1980 in the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 34, against the Negros Navigation, the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), and the PNOC Shipping and Transport Corporation (PNOC/STC), seeking damages for the death of the four family members that were never found. Petitioner, however, denied that the four relatives of private respondents actually boarded the vessel as shown by the fact that their bodies were never recovered. Petitioner further averred that the Don Juan was seaworthy and manned by a full and competent crew, and that the collision was entirely due to the fault of the crew of the M/T Tacloban City. The RTC ruled in favor of the complainants and ordered petitioner to pay for the damages. The CA affirmed the said decision.


Whether petitioner is liable for damages to the full extent


Prior to this case, a previous case was brought for the death of other passengers. Said case is entitledMecenas v. Intermediate Appellate Court .In that case it was found that although the proximate cause ofthe mishap was the negligence of the crew of the M/TTacloban City, the crew of theDon Juanwas equallynegligent as it found that the latter’s master, Capt. Rogelio Santisteban, was playing mahjong at the timeof collision, and the officer on watch, Senior Third Mate Rogelio De Vera, admitted that he failed to call theattention of Santisteban to the imminent danger facing them. This Court found that Capt. Santisteban andthe crew of the M/VDon Juan failed to take steps to preventthe collision or at least delay the sinking of theship and supervise the abandoning of the ship.
Petitioner Negros Navigation was found equally negligent in tolerating the playing of mahjong by the shipcaptain and other crew members while on board the ship and failing to keep the M/VDon Juanseaworthyso much so that the ship sank within 10 to 15 minutes of its impact with the M/TTacloban City .

In addition, the Court found that the Don Juan was overloaded
On the Doctrine of stare decisis: Adherence to the Mecenas case is dictated by this Courts policy of maintaining stability in jurisprudence in accordance with the legal maxim stare decisis et non quieta movere (Follow past precedents and do not disturb what has been settled.) Where, as in this case, the same questions relating to the same event have been put forward by parties similarly situated as in a previous case litigated and decided by a competent court, the rule of stare decisis is a bar to any attempt to re litigate the same issue.

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