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Torts and Damages Case Digest: Perla Compania De Seguros, Inc., et al. v. Sps. Gaudencio and Primitiva Sarangaya (2005)

G.R. No. 147746  October 25, 2005
Lessons Applicable: Res Ipsa Loquitur (Torts and Damages)

  • 1986: Spouses Gaudencio Sarangaya III and Primitiva Sarangaya erected Super A Building, a semi-concrete, semi-narra, one-storey commercial building fronting the provincial road of Santiago, Isabela
    • It has three doors which were leased out
    • The two-storey residence of the Sarangayas was behind the second and third doors of the building
  • On the left side of the commercial building stood the office of the Matsushita Electric Philippine Corporation (Matsushita)
  • 1988: Perla Compania de Seguros, Inc. through its branch manager Bienvenido Pascual, entered into a contract of lease of the first door beside the Matsushita office
    • It was converted into a two door so he had a garage where he parked a company car 1981 model 4-door Ford Cortina which he used to supervise different towns
  • July 7, 1988: Pascual went to San Fernando, Pampanga leaving the car
  • 3 days later: When he returned and warmed up the car, it made an odd sound.  On the second try, there was again an odd sound and a small flames came out of its engine so he was startled, stopped the car, went out and pushed it out of the garage
    • Soon, fire spewed out of its rear compartment and burned the whole garage where he was trapped so he suffered burns in the face, legs and arms
  • The spouses were busy atching TV when they heard 2 loud explosions, smelt of gasoline and fire burned all their belongings
  • city fire marshall investigated and concluded that the fire was accidental
  • Spouses filed a complaint against Pascual for gross negligence and Perla for lacking the required diligence in the selection and supervision of its employee. 
  • RTC: Pascual and Perla liable jointly and solidarily
    • Pascual was held liable under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur
  • CA: affirmed but modified the amount of damages
1. W/N the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is applicable - YES
2. W/N Perla lacked the required diligence in the selection and supervision of its employee. - NO


1. YES.
  • Res ipsa loquitur 
    • Latin phrase which literally means “the thing or the transaction speaks for itself.
    • It relates to the fact of an injury that sets out an inference to the cause thereof or establishes the plaintiff’s prima facie case
    • The doctrine rests on inference and not on presumption
    • facts of the occurrence warrant the supposition of negligence and they furnish circumstantial evidence of negligence when direct evidence is lacking
    • based on the theory that the defendant either knows the cause of the accident or has the best opportunity of ascertaining it and the plaintiff, having no knowledge thereof, is compelled to allege negligence in general terms
    • plaintiff relies on proof of the happening of the accident alone to establish negligence
    • provides a means by which a plaintiff can pin liability on a defendant who, if innocent, should be able to explain the care he exercised to prevent the incident complained of
      • defendant’s responsibility to show that there was no negligence on his part
  • Requisites of Res Ipsa Loquitur
    • 1) the accident is of a kind which does not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent
      • “Ordinary” refers to the usual course of events
        • Flames spewing out of a car engine, when it is switched on, is obviously not a normal event. Neither does an explosion usually occur when a car engine is revved.
        • Pascual, as the caretaker of the car, failed to submit any proof that he had it periodically checked - negligence
    • 2) the cause of the injury was under the exclusive control of the person in charge and
    • 3) the injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the person injured.
  • When there is caso fortuito:
    • (a) the cause of the unforeseen and unexpected  occurrence  was  independent  of  the human will
      • human agency must be entirely excluded as the proximate cause or contributory cause of the injury or loss -Not because car not maintained 
    • (b) it was impossible to foresee the event which constituted the caso fortuito or, if it could be foreseen, it was impossible to avoid -  NOT under the control of pascual
    • (c) the occurrence must be such as to render it impossible to perform an obligation in a normal manner - Spouses had no access nor obligation for the maintenance
    • (d) the person tasked to perform the obligation must not have participated in any course of conduct that aggravated the accident
2. YES.
  • Perla did not include any rule or regulation that Pascual should have observed in performing his functions
  • There was no guidelines for the maintenance and upkeep of company property like the vehicle that caught fire
  • Did not require periodic reports on or inventories of its properties 
    • Article 2180 of the Civil Code states that employers shall be liable for the damage caused by their employees. The liability is imposed on all those who by their industry, profession or other enterprise have other persons in their service or supervision
    • Nowhere does it state that the liability is limited to employers in the transportation business.