Philippine National Railways v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. L-55347, 4 October 1985, 139 SCRA 87

FACTS:

On 10 September 1972, at about 9:00 p.m., Winifedro Tupang, husband of Rosario Tupang, boarded Train 516 of the Philippine National Railways at Libmanan, Camarines as a paying passenger bound for Manila. Due to some mechanical defect, the train stopped at Sipocot, Camarines Sur for repairs, taking some two hours before the train could resume its trip to Manila. Unfortunately, upon passing Iyam Bridge at Lucena Quezon, Winifredo Tupang fell off the train resulting in his death. The train did not stop despite the alarm raised by the other passengers that somebody fell from the train. Instead, the train conductor, Perfecto Abrazado, called the station agent at Candelaria, Quezon and requested for verification of the information. Police authorities of Lucena City were dispatched to the Iyam Bridge where they found the lifeless body of Winifredo Tupang. As shown in the autopsy report, Winifredo Tupang died of cardio-respiratory failure due tomassive cerebral hemorrhage due to traumatic injury. Tupang was later buried in the public cemetery of Lucena City by the local police authorities. Upon complaint filed by the deceased’s widow, Rosario Tupang, the then CFI Rizal, after trial, held the PNR liable for damages for breach of contract of carriage and ordered it to pay Rosario Tupang the sum of P12,000.00 for the death of Winifredo Tupang, plus P20,000.00 for loss of his earning capacity, and the further sum of P10,000.00 as moral damages and P2,000.00 as attorney’s fees, and cost. On appeal, the Appellate Court sustained the holding of the trial court that the PNR did not exercise the utmost diligence required by of a common carrier. It further increased the amount adjudicated by the trial court by ordering PNR to pay Rosario Tupang an additional sum of P5,000.00 as exemplary damages. Moving for reconsideration of the above decision, the PNR raised for the first time, as a defense, the doctrine of state immunity from suit. The motion was denied. Hence, the petition for review.

ISSUE:

Whether or not there was contributory negligence on the part of Tupang.

HELD:

PNR has the obligation to transport its passengers to their destinations and to observe extraordinary diligence in doing. Death or any injury suffered of its passengers gives rise to the presumption that it was negligent in the performance of its obligation under the contract of carriage. PNR failed to overthrow such presumption of negligence with clear and convincing evidence, inasmuch as PNR does not deny, (1) that the train boarded by the deceased Winifredo Tupang was so overcrowded that he and many other passengers had no choice but sit on the open platforms between the coaches of the train, (2) that the train did not even slow down when it approached the Iyam Bridge which was under repair at the time, and (3) that neither did the train stop, despite the alarm raised by other passengers that a person had fallen off the train at Iyam Bridge. While PNR failed to exercise extraordinary diligence as required by law, it appears that the deceased chargeable with contributory negligence. Since he opted to sit on the open platform between the coaches of the train, he should have held tightly and tenaciously on the upright metal bar found at the side of said platform to avoid falling off from the speeding train. Such contributory negligence, while not exempting the PNR from liability, nevertheless justified the deletion of the amount adjudicated as moral damages. The Supreme Court modified the decision of the appellate court by eliminating therefrom the amount of P10,000.00 and P5,000.00 adjudicated as moral and exemplary damages, respectively, without cost.

*Case digest by Mark Milan, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019

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