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Torts and Damages Case Digest: Marcelo Macalinao, et al., v. Eddie Medecielo Ong (2005)

G.R. No.  146635  December 14, 2005

Lessons Applicable: Res Ipsa Loquitur (Torts and Damages)
Laws Applicable: 


  • April 1992: Sebastian instructed Macalinao, Ong and 2 other truck helpers to deliver a heavy piece of machinery to Sebastian’s manufacturing plant in Angat, Bulacan
  • While delivering, the Genetron’s Isuzu Elf truck driven by Ong bumped the front portion of a private jeepney.  Both vehicles incurred severe damages while the passengers sustained physical injuries as a consequence of the  collision. 
  • Macalinao was brought to Sta. Maria District Hospital for first aid treatment then to Philippine Orthopedic Center then to Capitol Medical Center and lastly, to Philippine General Hospital due to financial considerations.  His body was paralyzed and immobilized from the neck down.  He filed against Ong and Sebastian.  A  criminal  case  for  reckless  imprudence resulting to serious physical injuries was instituted but was not ensued.
  • November 7 1992: Macalinao died and was substituted by his parents.
  • RTC: 
    Ong negligent and Sebastian failed to exercise the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of Ong thus ordering them jointly liable to pay actual, moral, and exemplary damages as well as civil indemnity for Macalinao’s death
  • CA: reversed for lack of evidence
ISSUE: W/N Ong may be held liable under the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur


  • photographs clearly shows that the road where the mishap occurred is marked by a line at the center separating the right from the left lane
  • While ending up at the opposite lane is not conclusive proof of fault in automobile collisions, the position of the two vehicles gives rise to the conclusion that it was the Isuzu truck which hit the private jeepney rather than the other way around.
  • Based on the angle at which it stopped, the private jeepney obviously swerved to the right in an unsuccessful effort to avoid the Isuzu truck. 
  • Since respondents failed to refute the contents of the police blotter, the statement therein that the Isuzu truck hit the private jeepney and not the other way around is deemed established.
  • While not constituting direct proof of Ong’s negligence, the foregoing pieces of evidence justify the application of res ipsa loquitur, a Latin phrase which literally means “the thing or the transaction speaks for itself
  • Res ipsa loquitur 
    • recognizes that parties may establish prima facie negligence without direct proof, thus, it allows the principle to substitute for specific proof of negligence
    • permits the plaintiff to present along with proof of the accident, enough of the attending circumstances to invoke the doctrine, create an inference or presumption of negligence and thereby place on the defendant the burden of proving that there was no negligence on his part
    • based on the theory that defendant in charge of the instrumentality which causes the injury either knows the cause of the accident or has the best opportunity of ascertaining it while the plaintiff has no such knowledge, and is therefore compelled to allege negligence in general terms and rely upon the proof of the happening of the accident in order to establish negligence
    • can be invoked only when under the circumstances, direct evidence is absent and not readily available
    • grounded upon the fact that the chief evidence of the true cause, whether culpable or innocent, is practically accessible to the defendant but inaccessible to the injured person
    • requisites for the application of res ipsa loquitur:

      (1) The accident is of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence; - No two motor vehicles traversing opposite lanes will collide as a matter of course unless someone is negligent

      (2) It is caused by an instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant or defendants - Driving the Isuzu truck gave Ong exclusive management and control over it

      (3) The possibility of contributing conduct which would make the plaintiff responsible is eliminated 
              (4) defendant fails to offer any explanation tending to show that the
                    injury was caused by his or her want of due care (Based on 
                   American Jurisprudence) - defendant fails to offer any explanation
                   tending to show that the injury was caused by his or her want of due
  • Macalinao could no longer testify as to the cause of the accident since he is dead. Petitioners, while substituting their son as plaintiff, have no actual knowledge about the event since they were not present at the crucial moment
  • evidence as to the true cause of the accident is, for all intents and purposes, accessible to respondents but not to petitioners
    • two truck helpers who survived, both employees of Sebastian, and Ong, who is not only Sebastian’s previous employee but his co-respondent in this case as well