G.R. No. 113003, 17 October 1997, 281 SCRA 1
In 1988, spouses Tito and Leny Tumboy and their minor children named Ardee and Jasmin, boarded at Mangagoy, Surigao del Sur, a Yobido Liner bus bound for Davao City.
Along the way, the left front tire of the bus exploded causing it to fall into a ravine around three (3) feet from the road and struck a tree. The incident resulted in the death of 28-year-old Tito Tumboy and physical injuries to other passengers.
As a consequence thereof, a complaint for breach of contract of carriage, damages and attorneys fees was filed by Leny and her children against Alberta Yobido, the owner of the bus, and Cresencio Yobido, its driver, before the RTC of Davao City.
When the defendants therein filed their answer to the complaint, they raised the affirmative defense of caso fortuito.
In 1991, the lower court rendered a decision dismissing the action for lack of merit. On the issue of whether or not the tire blowout was a caso fortuito, it found that the falling of the bus to the cliff was a result of no other outside factor than the tire blow-out.
Dissatisfied, the plaintiffs appealed to the Court of Appeals. They ascribed to the lower court the following errors: (a) finding that the tire blowout was a caso fortuito; (b) failing to hold that the defendants did not exercise utmost and/or extraordinary diligence required of carriers under Article 1755 of the Civil Code, and (c) deciding the case contrary to the ruling in Juntilla v. Fontanar, and Necesito v. Paras.
In 1993, the Court of Appeals rendered the Decision reversing that of the lower court.
Proving that the tire that exploded is a new Goodyear tire is not sufficient to discharge defendant’s burden. As enunciated in Necesito vs. Paras, the passenger has neither choice nor control over the carrier in the selection and use of its equipment, and the good repute of the manufacturer will not necessarily relieve the carrier from liability.
The defendants filed a motion for reconsideration of said decision which was denied by the Court of Appeals. Hence, the instant petition asserting the position that the tire blowout that caused the death of Tito Tumboy was a caso fortuito.
Whether or not the explosion of a newly installed tire of a passenger vehicle is a fortuitous event that exempts the carrier from liability for the death of a passenger.
As a rule, when a passenger boards a common carrier, he takes the risks incidental to the mode of travel he has taken. After all, a carrier is not an insurer of the safety of its passengers and is not bound absolutely and at all events to carry them safely and without injury. However, when a passenger is injured or dies while travelling, the law presumes that the common carrier is negligent. Thus, the Civil Code provides:
Art. 1756. In case of death or injuries to passengers, common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently, unless they prove that they observed extraordinary diligence as prescribed in articles 1733 and 1755.
Article 1755 also provides that a common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with a due regard for all the circumstances.
Accordingly, in culpa contractual, once a passenger dies or is injured, the carrier is presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently. This disputable presumption may only be overcome by evidence that the carrier had observed extraordinary diligence as prescribed by Articles 1733, 1755 and 1756 of the Civil Code or that the death or injury of the passenger was due to a fortuitous event. Consequently, the court need not make an express finding of fault or negligence on the part of the carrier to hold it responsible for damages sought by the passenger.
In view of the foregoing, petitioners contention that they should be exempt from liability because the tire blowout was no more than a fortuitous event that could not have been foreseen, must fail. In other words, the explosion of the new tire may not be considered a fortuitous event because there are human factors involved in the situation.
The fact that the tire was new did not imply that it was entirely free from manufacturing defects or that it was properly mounted on the vehicle. Neither may the fact that the tire bought and used in the vehicle is of a brand name noted for quality, resulting in the conclusion that it could not explode within five days use. Be that as it may, it is settled that an accident caused either by defects in the automobile or through the negligence of its driver is not a caso fortuito that would exempt the carrier from liability for damages.
Moreover, a common carrier may not be absolved from liability in case of force majeure or fortuitous event alone. The common carrier must still prove that it was not negligent in causing the death or injury resulting from an accident.
While it may be true that the tire that blew-up was still good because the grooves of the tire were still visible, this fact alone does not make the explosion of the tire a fortuitous event. No evidence was presented to show that the accident was due to adverse road conditions or that precautions were taken by the jeepney driver to compensate for any conditions liable to cause accidents.
The sudden blowing-up, therefore, could have been caused by too much air pressure injected into the tire coupled by the fact that the jeepney was overloaded and speeding at the time of the accident.
*Case digest by Oscar Lim Abadies Jr, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2018-2019