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Conflicts of Laws Case Digest: Saudi Arabian Airlines v. CA

G.R. No. 122191 October 8, 1998

Laws Applicable: Art 19 and 21 of Civil Code

Lessons Applicable: Conflict of Laws, factual situation, connecting factor, characterization, choice of law, State of the most significant relationship

  • Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAUDIA), foreign airlines corporation doing business in the Philippines and may be served summons in agent in Makati, hired Milagros P. Morada as a flight attendant for its airlines based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
  • April 27, 1990: While on a lay-over in Jakarta, Indonesia, Morada went to a disco dance with fellow crew members Thamer Al-Gazzawi and Allah Al-Gazzawi, both Saudi nationals.  It was almost morning when they returned to their hotels so they agreed to have breakfast together at the room of Thamer.  Shortly after Allah left the room, Thamer attempted to rape Morada. Fortunately, a roomboy and several security personnel heard her cries for help and rescued her.  Indonesian police arrested Thamer and Allah Al-Gazzawi, the latter as an accomplice.
  • When Morada returned to Jeddah, SAUDIA officials interrogated her about the Jakarta incident and requested her to go back to Jakarta to help arrange the release of Thamer and Allah.  In Jakarta, SAUDIA Legal Officers negotiated with the police for the immediate release of the detained crew members but did not succeed.  Afraid that she might be tricked into something she did not want because of her inability to understand the local dialect, Morado refused to cooperate and declined to sign a blank paper and a document written in the local dialect.  Eventually, SAUDIA allowed Morada to return to Jeddah but barred her from the Jakarta flights.
  • Indonesian authorities agreed to deport Thamer and Allah and they were again put in service.  While, Morada was transferred to Manila.
  • January 14, 1992: Morada was asked to see Mr. Ali Meniewy, Chief Legal Officer of SAUDIA, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  He brought her to the police station where the police took her passport and questioned her about the Jakarta incident.  The police pressured her to drop the case against Thamer and Allah.  Not until she agreed to do so did the police return her passport and allowed her to catch the afternoon flight out of Jeddah.
  • June 16, 1993: Morada, while in Riyadh Saudi Arabia, was not allowed to board the plane to Manila and instead ordered to take a later flight to Jeddah to see Mr. Miniewy.  Khalid of the SAUDIA office brought her to a Saudi court where she was asked to sign a document written in Arabic. They told her that this was necessary to close the case against Thamer and Allah but it was actually a notice for her to appear before the court on June 27, 1993.  Plaintiff then returned to Manila.
  • June 27, 1993: SAUDIA's Manila manager, Aslam Saleemi, assured Morada that the investigation was routinary and that it posed no danger to her so she reported to Miniewy in Jeddah for further investigation.  She was brought to the Saudi court.
  • June 28, 1993: Saudi judge interrogated Morada through an interpreter about the Jakarta incident for an hour and let her go.  SAUDIA officers forbidden her to take flight.  She was told to go the Inflight Service Office  where her passport was taken and they told her to remain in Jeddah, at the crew quarters, until further orders.
  • July 3, 1993: She was brought to court again and to her astonishment and shock, rendered a decision, translated to her in English, sentencing her to five months imprisonment and to 286 lashes.  The court tried her, together with Thamer and Allah, and found her guilty of (1) adultery (2) going to a disco, dancing and listening to the music in violation of Islamic laws and (3) socializing with the male crew, in contravention of Islamic tradition.
  • Failing to seek the assistance of her employer, SAUDIA, she asked the Philippine Embassy in Jeddah to help her while her case is on appeal.  She continued to workon the domestic flight of SAUDIA, while Thamer and Allah continued to serve in the international flights.
  • Because she was wrongfully convicted, the Prince of Makkah dismissed the case against her and allowed her to leave Saudi Arabia.  Before her return to Manila, she was terminated from the service by SAUDIA, without her being informed of the cause.
  • November 23, 1993: Morada filed a Complaint for damages against SAUDIA, and Khaled Al-Balawi, its country manager.
  • January 19, 1994: SAUDIA filed an Omnibus Motion To Dismiss on following grounds: (1) that the Complaint states no cause of action against SAUDIA (2) that defendant Al-Balawi is not a real party in interest (3) that the claim or demand set forth in the Complaint has been waived, abandoned or otherwise extinguished and (4) that the trial court has no jurisdiction to try the case.
  • After opposition to the motion to dismiss by Morada and reply by SAUDIA, Morada filed an Amended Complaint dropping Al-Balawi.  SAUDIA filed its Manifestation,  Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint, subsequently motion for reconsideration which were all denied.
  • SAUDIA filed its Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with Prayer for Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order with the Court of Appeals.  TRO was granted but Writ of Preliminary Injunction was denied.
  • CA: Philippines is an appropriate forum considering that the Amended Complaint's basis for recovery of damages is Article 21 of the Civil Code, and thus, clearly within the jurisdiction of respondent Court. It further held that certiorari is not the proper remedy in a denial of a Motion to Dismiss, inasmuch as the petitioner should have proceeded to trial, and in case of an adverse ruling, find recourse in an appeal.
  • SAUDIA filed its Supplemental Petition for Review with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order:
o    It is a conflict of laws that must be settled at the outset:
§  Morada's claim for alleged abuse of rights occurred in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
§  Existence of a foreign element qualifies the instant case for the application of the law of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by virtue of the lex loci delicti commissi rule.
  • Morada: Amended Complaint is based on Articles 19 and 21 of the Civil Code which is a matter of domestic law

ISSUE: W/N the RTC of Quezon City has jurisdiction over the case and it is the proper forum for recovery of damages under Art. 21 of the Civil Code which should govern.

HELD: YES. petition for certiorari is hereby DISMISSED. REMANDED to RTC of Quezon City, Branch 89 for further proceedings
  • Where the factual antecedents satisfactorily establish the existence of a foreign element, the problem could present a "conflicts" case
  • A factual situation that cuts across territorial lines and is affected by the diverse laws of two or more states is said to contain a "foreign element".
o    Morada is a resident Philippine national
o    SAUDIA is a resident foreign corporation
o    by virtue of the employment of Morada with the SAUDIA as a flight stewardess, events did transpire during her many occasions of travel across national borders, particularly from Manila, Philippines to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and vice versa, that caused a "conflicts" situation to arise
  • Forms of foreign element:
o    Simple: one of the parties to a contract is an alien or has a foreign domicile, or that a contract between nationals of one State involves properties situated in another State
o    Complex
  • Violations of Articles 19 and 21 are actionable, with judicially enforceable remedies in the municipal forum.  RTC of Quezon City possesses jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit.
  • Pragmatic considerations, including the convenience of the parties, also weigh heavily in favor of the RTC Quezon City assuming jurisdiction:
o    private interest of the litigant
o    enforceability of a judgment if one is obtained
o    relative advantages and obstacles to a fair trial
§  Plaintiff may not, by choice of an inconvenient forum, "vex", "harass", or "oppress" the defendant, e.g. by inflicting upon him needless expense or disturbance. but unless the balance is strongly in favor of the defendant, the plaintiffs choice of forum should rarely be disturbed.
  • Weighing the relative claims of the parties, the court a quo found it best to hear the case in the Philippines. Had it refused to take cognizance of the case, it would be forcing plaintiff (private respondent now) to seek remedial action elsewhere, i.e. in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia where she no longer maintains substantial connections. That would have caused a fundamental unfairness to her.  Moreover, by hearing the case in the Philippines no unnecessary difficulties and inconvenience have been shown by either of the parties.
  • Trial court possesses jurisdiction over the persons of the parties
o    By filing her Complaint and Amended Complaint with the trial court, private respondent has voluntary submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the court
o    SAUDIA has effectively submitted to the trial court's jurisdiction by praying for the dismissal of the Amended Complaint on grounds other than lack of jurisdiction.
  • As to the choice of applicable law, it seeks to answer 2 important questions:
o    (1) What legal system should control a given situation where some of the significant facts occurred in two or more states
o    (2) to what extent should the chosen legal system regulate the situation
  • Although ideally, all choice-of-law theories should intrinsically advance both notions of justice and predictability, they do not always do so. The forum is then faced with the problem of deciding which of these two important values should be stressed.
  • Before a choice can be made, it is necessary for us to determine under what category a certain set of facts or rules fall
o    "characterization" or the "doctrine of qualification”
§  process of deciding whether or not the facts relate to the kind of question specified in a conflicts rule
§  purpose: to enable the forum to select the proper law
  • Choice-of-law rules invariably consist of: (essential element of conflict rules)
o    factual situation/relationship or operative fact (such as property right, contract claim); and
§  starting point of analysis
o    test or connecting factor or point of contact (such as the situs of the res, the place of celebration, the place of performance, or the place of wrongdoing) – could be:
§  (1) The nationality of a person, his domicile, his residence, his place of sojourn, or his origin
§  (2) the seat of a legal or juridical person, such as a corporation
§  (3) the situs of a thing, that is, the place where a thing is, or is deemed to be situated. In particular, the lex situs is decisive when real rights are involved
§  (4) the place where an act has been done, the locus actus, such as the place where a contract has been made, a marriage celebrated, a will signed or a tort committed. The lex loci actus is particularly important in contracts and torts
§  (5) the place where an act is intended to come into effect, e.g., the place of performance of contractual duties, or the place where a power of attorney is to be exercised
§  (6) the intention of the contracting parties as to the law that should govern their agreement, the lex loci intentionis;
§  (7) the place where judicial or administrative proceedings are instituted or done. The lex fori — the law of the forum — is particularly important because, as we have seen earlier, matters of "procedure" not going to the substance of the claim involved are governed by it; and because the lex fori applies whenever the content of the otherwise applicable foreign law is excluded from application in a given case for the reason that it falls under one of the exceptions to the applications of foreign law; and
§  (8) the flag of a ship, which in many cases is decisive of practically all legal relationships of the ship and of its master or owner as such. It also covers contractual relationships particularly contracts of affreightment
  • Note that one or more circumstances may be present to serve as the possible test for the determination of the applicable law.
  • Based on pleadings on record, including allegations in the Amended Complaint:
o    Morada was made to face trial for very serious charges, including adultery and violation of Islamic laws and tradition
o    SAUDIA may have acted beyond its duties as employer by handing over the person of Morada to Jeddah officials which contributed to and amplified or even proximately caused additional humiliation, misery and suffering.  It also took advantage of the trust, confidence and faith in the guise of authority as employer.
o    Conviction and imprisonment was wrongful but injury or harm was inflicted upon her person and reputation which must be compensated or redress for the wrong doing
  • Complaint involving torts
  • "connecting factor" or "point of contact" - place or places where the tortious conduct or lex loci actus occurred = Philippines where SAUDIA deceived Morada, a Filipina residing and working here.
  • "State of the most significant relationship" – applied
o    taken into account and evaluated according to their relative importance with respect to the particular issue:
§  (a) the place where the injury occurred
§  (b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred
§  (c) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties
§  (d) the place where the relationship, if any, between the parties is centered
v  private respondent is a resident Filipina national, working here
v  a resident foreign corporation engaged here in the business of international air carriage