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Torts and Damages Case Digest: Bustamante v. CA (1991)

G.R. No. 89880 February 6, 1991
Lessons Applicable: Last Clear Chance (Torts and Damages)

  • April 20, 1983 6:30 am: a collision occurred between a 1947 model gravel and sand truck driven by Montesiano and owned by Del Pilar and a Mazda passenger bus driven Susulin along the national road at Calibuyo, Tanza, Cavite
    • front left side portion (barandilla) of the body of the truck sideswiped the left side wall of the passenger bus, ripping off the wall from the driver's seat to the last rear seat 
    • several passengers of the bus were thrown out and died as a result of the injuries they sustained:
      • 1. Rogelio Bustamante, 40, husband of Emma Adriano Bustamante and father of Rossel, Gloria, Yolanda, Ericson, and Ederic, all surnamed Bustamante;
        2. Maria Corazon Jocson, 16, daughter of spouses Salvador and Patria Jocson;
        3. Jolet C. Ramos, 16, daughter of spouses Jose and Enriqueta Ramos;
        4. Enrico Himaya, 18, son of spouses Narciso and Adoracion Himaya; and
        5. Noel Bersamina, 17, son of spouses Jose and Ma. Commemoracion Bersamina
    • The bus was registered in the name of Novelo but was owned and/or operated as a passenger bus jointly by Magtibay and Serrado
  • before the collision, the cargo truck and the passenger bus were approaching each other, coming from the opposite directions of the highway. While the truck was still about 30 meters away, Susulin, the bus driver, saw the front wheels of the vehicle wiggling. He also observed that the truck was heading towards his lane. Not minding this circumstance due to his belief that the driver of the truck was merely joking, Susulin shifted from fourth to third gear in order to give more power and speed to the bus, which was ascending the inclined part of the road, in order to overtake or pass a Kubota hand tractor being pushed by a person along the shoulder of the highway
  • RTC: liability of the two drivers for their negligence must be solidary
  • CA: owner and driver of the sand and gravel truck appealed was granted
ISSUE: W/N the last clear chance can apply making the bus negligent in failing to avoid the collision and his act in proceeding to overtake the hand tractor was the proximate cause of the collision making him solely liable

HELD: NO. Petition is granted. CA reversed.
  • the doctrine of last clear chance means that even though a person's own acts may have placed him in a position of peril, and an injury results, the injured person is entitled to recovery. 
    • a person who has the last clear chance or opportunity of avoiding an accident, notwithstanding the negligent acts of his opponent or that of a third person imputed to the opponent is considered in law solely responsible for the consequences of the accident. 
  • since the case at bar is not a suit between the owners and drivers of the colliding vehicles but a suit brought by the heirs of the deceased passengers against both owners and drivers of the colliding vehicles the court erred in absolving the owner and driver of the cargo truck from liability