21 SCRA 279 G.R. No. L-21749 (September 29, 1967)


1. Barge owned by Luzon Stevedoring Corporation(defendant, LSC for brevity) was being towed down the Pasig river by tugboats belonging to the same corporation.`
2. The barge rammed against one of the wooden piles of the Nagtahan Bailey Bridge, smashing the posts and causing the bright to list. The river, at that time, was swollen and the current swift, on account of the heavy downpour of Manila and the surrounding provinces.
3. Republic of the Philippines (PH) sued LSC for actual and consequential damages caused by its employees.


Whether or not the collision of LSC’s barge with the supports or piers of the Nagtahan bridge was in law caused by fortuitous event or force majeure.


No. Considering that the Nagtahan bridge was an immovable and stationary object and uncontrovertibly provided with adequate openings for the passage of water craft, including barges like of NSC’s, it is undeniable that the unusual event that the barge, exclusively controlled by appellant, rammed the bridge supports raises a presumption of negligence on the part of appellant or its employees manning the barge or the tugs that towed it. For in the ordinary course of events, such a thing does not happen if proper case is used. Res ipsa loquitur.
NLS stresses the precautions (due diligence) taken by it: (1) that it assigned two of its most powerful tugboats to tow down river its barge, and (2) that it assigned to the task the more competent and experienced among its patrons, (3) had the towlines, engines and equipment double-checked and inspected; (4) that it instructed its patrons to take extra precautions. These very precautions, completely destroy the NLS’defense.

Caso fortuito or force majeure by definition, are extraordinary events not foreseeable or avoidable, events that could not be foreseen, or which, though foreseen, were inevitable.” It is, therefore, not enough that the event should not have been foreseen or anticipated, as is commonly believed, but it must be one impossible to foresee or to avoid. The more difficulty to foresee the happening is not impossibility to foresee the same. The very measures adopted by NSC prove that the possibility of danger was not only foreseeable, but actually foreseen, and was not caso fortuito.

LSC, knowing and appreciating the perils posed by the swollen steam and its swift current, voluntarily entered into a situation involving obvious danger; it therefore assured the risk, and cannot shed responsibility merely because the precautions it adopted turned out to be insufficient.

 * Case digest by Leizel Lagare, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018