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Transportation Case Digest: Sulpicio v. CA (1995)

G.R. No. 113578 July 14, 1995
Lessons Applicable: Exceptions to Contracting Parties (Transportation)

  • October 23, 1988: Tito Duran Tabuquilde (Tito) and his 3-year old daughter Jennifer Anne (Anne) boarded the M/V Dona Marilyn at North Harbor, Manila, bringing with them several pieces of luggage.
    • Storm Signal No. 2 had been raised by the PAG-ASA authorities over Leyte as early as 5:30 P.M. of October 23, 1988 and which signal was raised to Signal No. 3 by 10 P.M
    • ship captain ordered the vessel to proceed to Tacloban when prudence dictated that he should have taken it to the nearest port for shelter, thus violating his duty to exercise extraordinary diligence in the carrying of passengers safely to their destination 
  • October 24, 1988 morning: M/V Dona Marilyn, while in transit, encountered inclement weather which caused huge waves due to Typhoon Unsang.
    • Angelina Tabuquilde contacted the Sulpicio Office to verify radio reports that the vessel M/V Dona Marilyn was missing
      • Sulpicio Lines assured her that the ship was merely "hiding" thereby assuaging her anxiety
  • October 24, 1988 2:00 P.M.: vessel capsized, throwing Tito and Anne, along with hundreds of passengers, into the sea.
    • Tito tried to keep himself and his daughter afloat but to no avail as the waves got stronger and he was subsequently separated from his daughter despite his efforts.
  • October 25, 1988 11:00 A.M.: He found himself on Almagro Island in Samar
    • He immediately searched for his daughter among the survivors in the island, but failed
    • Angelina tried to seek the assistance of the Sulpicio Lines in Manila to no avail
    • Angelina spent sleepless nights worrying about her husband and daughter in view of the refusal of Sulpicio Lines to release a verification of the sinking of the ship
  • October 26, 1988: Tito and other survivors in the Almagro Island were fetched and were brought to Tacloban Medical Center for treatment
  • October 31, 1988: Tito reported the loss of his daughter and was informed that the corpse of a child with his daughter's description had been found
    • Tito wrote a letter to his wife, reporting the sad fact that Jennifer Anne was dead
    • Angelina suffered from shock and severe grief upon receipt of the news
  • November 3, 1988: coffin bearing the corpse of Anne was buried 
  • November 24, 1988: Tito filed a claim for damages against Sulpicio Lines for the death of Anne and the loss of his belongings worth P27,580
  • Trial Court: in favor of Tito
    • actual damages, P30,000.00 for the death of Anne
    • P100,000.00 as moral damages
    • P50,000.00 as exemplary damages
    • P50,000.00 as attorney's fees, and costs
ISSUE: W/N Tito has a right to recover damage for his lost belongings

HELD: NO.  Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that the award of P27,580.00 as actual damages for the loss of the contents of the pieces of baggage is deleted and that the award of P30,000.00 under Article 2206 in relation Article 1764 is increased to P50,000.00.
  • There is no showing that the value of the contents of the lost pieces of baggage was based on the bill of lading or was previously declared by Tito before he boarded the ship
  • Article 2206 of the Civil Code of the Philippines:
only deaths caused by a crime as quasi delict are entitled to actual and compensatory damages without the need of proof of the said damages
The amount of damages for death caused by a crime or quasi delict shall be at least Three Thousand Pesos, even though there may have been mitigating circumstances. . . .
    • Deducing alone from said provision, one can conclude that damages arising from culpa contractual are not compensable without proof of special damages sustained by the heirs of the victim.
    • With respect to the award of moral damages, the general rule is that said damages are not recoverable in culpa contractual except when the presence of bad faith was proven
    • in breach of contract of carriage, moral damages may be recovered when it results in the death of a passenger  
    • With respect to the award of exemplary damages, Article 2232 of the Civil Code of the Philippines gives the Court the discretion to grant said damages in breach of contract when the defendant acted in a wanton, fraudulent and reckless manner
  • The crew assumed a greater risk when, instead of dropping anchor in or at the periphery of the Port of Calapan, or returning to the port of Manila which is nearer, proceeded on its voyage on the assumption that it will be able to beat and race with the typhoon and reach its destination before it (Unsang) passes