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Torts and Damages Case Digest: Philippine Bank of Commerce v. CA (1997)

G.R. No. 97626   March 14, 1997
Lessons Applicable: Last Clear Chance (Torts and Damages)


  • May 5, 1975 to July 16, 1976: Romeo Lipana claims to have entrusted RMC funds in the form of cash totalling P304,979.74 to his secretary, Irene Yabut, for the purpose of depositing said funds in the current accounts of RMC with Philippine Bank of Commerce (PBC)
    • They were not credited to RMC's account but were instead deposited to Account No. 53-01734-7 of Yabut's husband, Bienvenido Cotas
  • Romeo Lipana  never checked their monthly statements of account reposing complete trust and confidence on PBC
  • Irene Yabut's modus operandi was to furnish 2 copies of deposit slip upon and both are always validated and stamped by the teller Azucena Mabayad :
    • original showed the name of her husband as depositor and his current account number - retained by the bank
    • duplicate copy was written the account number of her husband but the name of the account holder was left blank
  • After validation, Yabut would then fill up the name of RMC in the space left blank in the duplicate copy and change the account number to RMC's account number
  • This went on in a span of more than 1 year without private respondent's knowledge
  • Upon discovery of the loss of its funds, RMC demanded from PBC the return of its money and later on filed in the RTC
  • RTC: PBC and Azucena Mabayad jointly and severally liable
  • CA: affirmed with modification deleting awards of exemplary damages and attorney's fees 
1. W/N applying the last clear chance, PBC's teller is negligent for failing to avoid the injury by not exercising the proper validation procedure-YES
2. W/N there was contirbutory negligence by RMC - YES

HELD: 60-40 ratio. only the balance of 60% needs to be paid by the PBC

1. YES.
  • The fact that the duplicate slip was not compulsorily required by the bank in accepting deposits should not relieve the PBC of responsibility
  • The odd circumstance alone that such duplicate copy lacked one vital information (Name of the account holder) should have already put Ms. Mabayad on guard. 
  • Negligence here lies not only on the part of Ms. Mabayad but also on the part of the bank itself in its lack in selection and supervision of Ms. Mabayad. 
  • Mr. Romeo Bonifacio, then Manager of the Pasig Branch of the petitioner bank and now its Vice-President, to the effect that, while he ordered the investigation of the incident, he never came to know that blank deposit slips were validated in total disregard of the bank's validation procedures until 7 years later
  • last clear chance/supervening negligence/discovered peril
    • where both parties are negligent, but the negligent act of one is appreciably later in time than that of the other, or when it is impossible to determine whose fault or negligence should be attributed to the incident, the one who had the last clear opportunity to avoid the impending harm and failed to do so is chargeable with the consequences thereof
    • antecedent negligence of a person does not preclude the recovery of damages for the supervening negligence of, or bar a defense against liability sought by another, if the latter, who had the last fair chance, could have avoided the impending harm by the exercise of due diligence. 
      • Here, assuming that RMC was negligent in entrusting cash to a dishonest employee, yet it cannot be denied that PBC bank, thru its teller, had the last clear opportunity to avert the injury incurred by its client, simply by faithfully observing their self-imposed validation procedure.
  • Art. 1173. The fault or negligence of the obligor consists in the omission of that diligence which is required by the nature of the obligation and corresponds with the circumstances of the persons, of the time and of the place. When negligence shows bad faith, the provisions of articles 1171 and 2201, paragraph 2, shall apply.
    If the law or contract does not state the diligence which is to be observed in the performance, that which is expected of a good father of a family shall be required.  In the case of banks, however, the degree of diligence required is more than that of a good father of a family. Considering the fiduciary nature of their relationship with their depositors, banks are duty bound to treat the accounts of their clients with the highest degree of care
2. YES.
  • it cannot be denied that, indeed, private respondent was likewise negligent in not checking its monthly statements of account. Had it done so, the company would have been alerted to the series of frauds being committed against RMC by its secretary. The damage would definitely not have ballooned to such an amount if only RMC, particularly Romeo Lipana, had exercised even a little vigilance in their financial affairs. This omission by RMC amounts to contributory negligence which shall mitigate the damages that may be awarded to the private respondent
  • Article 2179 of the New Civil Code
When the plaintiff's own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. But if his negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury being the defendant's lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded