Phil. Rabbit Bus Lines v. Intermediate Appellate Court

G.R. No. 66102-04, 30 August 1990, 189 SCRA 158

FACTS:

On December 24, 1966,passengers boarded the jeepney owned by spouses Isidro Mangune and Guillerma Carreon and driven by Tranquilino Manalo at Pampanga bound for Pangasinan for P24.00. Upon reaching Tarlac, the right rear wheel of the jeepney detached causing it to run in an unbalanced position. Driver Manalo stepped on the brake, causing the jeepney to make a U-turn, invading and eventually stopping on the opposite lane of the road (the jeepney’sfront faced the south (from where it came) and its rear faced the north (towards where it was going).The jeepney occupied and blocked the greater portion of the western lane, which is the right of way of vehicles coming from the north.

Petitioner Phil. Rabbit Bus Lines claims that almost immediately after the sudden U-turn the busbumped the right rear portion of the jeep. Defendants, on the other hand, claim that the bus stoppeda few minutes before hitting the jeepney. Either way, as a result of the collision, three passengers of the jeepney (Catalina Pascua, Erlinda Meriales and Adelaida Estomo) died while the other jeepneypassengers sustained physical injuries.A criminal complaint was filed against the two drivers for Multiple Homicide. The case against delosReyes (driver of Phil. Rabbit) was dismissed for insufficieny of evidence. Manalo (jeepney driver) was convicted and sentenced to suffer imprisonment.

Three complaints for recovery of damages were then filed before the CFI of Pangasinan: (1) SpousesCasiano Pascua and Juana Valdez sued as heirs of Catalina Pascua while Caridad Pascua sued in her behalf; (2) Spouses Manuel Millares and Fidencia Arcica sued as heirs of Erlinda Meriales; and (3) spouses Mariano Estomo and Dionisia Sarmiento sued as heirs of Adelaida Estomo. All three cases impleaded spouses Mangune and Carreon, Manalo (jeepney owners), Rabbit and delos Reyes as defendants. Plaintiffs anchored their suits against spouses Mangune andCarreon and Manalo on their contractual liability. As against Rabbit and delos Reyes, plaintiffs basedtheir suits on their culpability for a quasi-delict.

The respondent court applied primarily (1) the doctrine of last clear chance, (2) the presumption that drivers who bump the rear of another vehicle guilty and the cause of the accident unless contradicted by other evidence, and (3) the substantial factor test concluded that delos Reyes was negligent.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the doctrine of last clear chance is applicable in this case.

RULING:

No. The doctrine is not applicable.
The principle about “the last clear” chance, would call for application in a suit between the owners and drivers of the two colliding vehicles. It does not arise where a passenger demands responsibility from the carrier to enforce its contractual obligations. For it would be inequitable to exempt the negligent driver of the jeepney and its owners on the ground that the other driver was likewise guilty of negligence.” This was the ruling in Anuran, et al. v. Buño et al., G.R. Nos. L-21353 and L-21354, May 20, 1966, 17 SCRA 224. Thus, the respondent court erred in applying said doctrine.

On the presumption that drivers who bump the rear of another vehicle guilty and the cause of the accident, unless contradicted by other evidence, the respondent court said:
. . . the jeepney had already executed a complete turnabout and at the time of impact was already facing the western side of the road. Thus the jeepney assumed a new frontal position vis a vis, the bus, and the bus assumed a new role of defensive driving. The spirit behind the presumption of guilt on one who bumps the rear end of another vehicle is for the driver following a vehicle to be at all times prepared of a pending accident should the driver in front suddenly come to a full stop, or change its course either through change of mind of the front driver, mechanical trouble, or to avoid an accident. The rear vehicle is given the responsibility of avoiding a collision with the front vehicle for it is the rear vehicle who has full control of the situation as it is in a position to observe the vehicle in front of it.

The above discussion would have been correct were it not for the undisputed fact that the U-turn made by the jeepney was abrupt.The jeepney, which was then traveling on the eastern shoulder, making a straight, skid mark of approximately 35 meters, crossed the eastern lane at a sharp angle, making a skid mark of approximately 15 meters from the eastern shoulder to the point of impact (Exhibit “K” Pascua). Hence, delos Reyes could not have anticipated the sudden U-turn executed by Manalo. The respondent court did not realize that the presumption was rebutted by this piece of evidence.

*Case digest by Karishina Viado, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio College Law School, SY 2018-2019

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