Pan American World Airways, Inc. v. Rapadas

G.R. No. 60673, 19 May 1992, 209 SCRA 67

FACTS:

On 16 January 1975, Jose K. Rapadas held Passenger Ticket and Baggage Claim Check 026394830084-5 for Pan American World Airways Inc.’s (PanAm) Flight 841 with the route from Guam to Manila. While standing in line to board the flight at the Guam airport, Rapadas was ordered by PanAm’s handcarry control agent to check-in his Samsonite attache case. Rapadas protested pointing to the fact that other co-passengers were permitted to handcarry bulkier baggages. He stepped out of the line only to go back again at the end of it to try if he can get through without having to register his attache’ case. However, the same man in charge of handcarry control did not fail to notice him and ordered him again to register his baggage. For fear that he would miss the plane if he insisted and argued on personally taking the valise with him, he acceded to checking it in. He then gave his attache’ case to his brother who happened to be around and who checked it in for him, but without declaring its contents or the value of its contents. He was given a Baggage Claim Tag P-749-713. Upon arriving in Manila on the same date, 16 January 1975, Rapadas claimed and was given all his checked-in baggages except the attache’ case. Since Rapadas felt ill on his arrival, he sent his son, Jorge Rapadas to request for the search of the missing luggage. PanAm exerted efforts to locate the luggage through the Pan American World Airways-Manila International Airport (PAN AM-MIA) Baggage Service. On 30 January 1975, PanAm required the Rapadas to put the request in writing. Rapadas filled in a Baggage Claim Blank Form. Thereafter, Rapadas personally followed up his claim. For several times, he called up Mr. Panuelos, the head of the Baggage Section of PAN AM. He also sent letters demanding and reminding the petitioner of his claim. Rapadas received a letter from PanAm’s counsel dated 2 August 1975 offering to settle the claim for the sum of $160.00 representing PanAm’s alleged limit of liability for loss or damage to a passenger’s personal property under the contract of carriage between Rapadas and PAN-AM.

Refusing to accept this kind of settlement, Rapadas filed the instant action for damages on 1 October 1975. Rapadas alleged that PanAm discriminated or singled him out in ordering that his luggage be checked in. He also alleged that PanAm neglected its duty in the handling and safekeeping of his attache’ case from the point of embarkation in Guam to his destination in Manila. He placed the value of the lost attache’ case and its contents at US$42,403.90. According to him, the loss resulted in his failure to pay certain monetary obligations, failure to remit money sent through him to relatives, inability to enjoy the fruits of his retirement and vacation pay earned from working in Tonga Construction Company (he retired in August 1974) and inability to return to Tonga to comply with then existing contracts. The lower court ruled in favor of complainant Rapadas after finding no stipulation giving notice to the baggage liability limitation. The court rejected the claim of PanAm that its liability under the terms of the passenger ticket is only up to $160.00. However, it scrutinized all the claims of Rapadas. It discredited insufficient evidence to show discriminatory acts or bad faith on the part of PanAm. The trial court ordered PanAm to pay Rapadas by way of actual damages the equivalent peso value of the amount of $5,228.90 and 100 paengs (Tongan money), nominal damages in the amount of P20,000.00 and attorney’s fees of P5,000.00, and the costs of the suit. The trial court also dismissed PanAm’s counterclaim. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court decision. Hence, the petition for review.

ISSUE:

Whether or not PanAm is liable to pay damages to Rapadas.

HELD:

The Supreme Court granted the petition, and reversed and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeals. The Court ordered PanAm to pay Rapadas damages in the amount of US$400.00 or its equivalent in Philippine Currency at the time of actual payment, P10,000.00 in attorney’s fees, and costs of the suit.

*Case digest by Maria Novie Taruc, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019

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