PHILIPPINE HAWK CORPORATION v. VIVIAN TAN LEE

Posted: March 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

PHILIPPINE HAWK CORPORATION v. VIVIAN TAN LEE

G.R. No. 166869

 

FACTS: The accident involved a motorcycle, a passenger jeep, and a bus with Body No. 119. The bus was owned by petitioner Philippine Hawk Corporation, and was then being driven by Margarito Avila. On March 15, 2005, respondent Vivian Tan Lee filed before the RTC of Quezon City a Complaint against petitioner Philippine Hawk Corporation and defendant Margarito Avila for damages based on quasi-delict, arising from a vehicular accident that occurred on March 17, 1991 in Barangay Buensoceso, Gumaca, Quezon. The accident resulted in the death of respondents husband, Silvino Tan, and caused respondent physical injuries. On June 18, 1992, respondent filed an Amended Complaint in her own behalf and in behalf of her children, in the civil case for damages against petitioner. Respondent sought the payment of indemnity for the death of Silvino Tan, moral and exemplary damages, funeral and interment expenses, medical and hospitalization expenses, the cost of the motorcycles repair, attorneys fees, and other just and equitable reliefs.

 

Petitioner denied liability for the vehicular accident, alleging that the immediate and proximate cause of the accident was the recklessness or lack of caution of Silvino Tan. Petitioner asserted that it exercised the diligence of a good father of the family in the selection and supervision of its employees, including Margarito Avila.

 

The trial court adjudged Avila of simple negligence and ordered Philippine Hawk Corporation and Margarito Avila to pay Vivian Tan jointly and solidarily the sum of P745,575.00 representing loss of earnings and actual damages plus P50,000.00 as moral damages. It found that before the collision, the motorcycle was on the left side of the road, just as the passenger jeep was. Prior to the accident, the motorcycle was in a running position moving toward the right side of the highway. The trial court agreed with the bus driver that the motorcycle was moving ahead of the bus from the left side of the road toward the right side of the road, but disagreed that the motorcycle crossed the path of the bus while the bus was running on the right side of the road. The trial court held that if the bus were on the right side of the highway, and Margarito Avila turned his bus to the right in an attempt to avoid hitting the motorcyle, then the bus would not have hit the passenger jeep, which was then parked on the left side of the road. The fact that the bus also hit the passenger jeep showed that the bus must have been running from the right lane to the left lane of the highway, which caused the collision with the motorcycle and the passenger jeep parked on the left side of the road. The trial court stated that since Avila saw the motorcycle before the collision, he should have stepped on the brakes and slowed down, but he just maintained his speed and veered to the left. The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court with modification in the award of damages.

 

ISSUES:

(1) whether or not negligence may be attributed to petitioners driver, and whether negligence on his part was the proximate cause of the accident, resulting in the death of Silvino Tan and causing physical injuries to respondent/ whether or not petitioner is liable to respondent for damages; and

(2) whether or not the damages awarded by respondent Court of Appeals are proper.

 

HELD:

1) The Court upholds the finding of the trial court and the Court of Appeals that petitioner is liable to respondent, since it failed to exercise the diligence of a good father of the family in the selection and supervision of its bus driver, Margarito Avila, for having failed to sufficiently inculcate in him discipline and correct behavior on the road. Indeed, petitioners tests were concentrated on the ability to drive and physical fitness to do so. It also did not know that Avila had been previously involved in sideswiping incidents. A review of the records showed that it was petitioners witness, Efren Delantar Ong, who was about 15 meters away from the bus when he saw the vehicular accident. Nevertheless, this fact does not affect the finding of the trial court that petitioners bus driver, Margarito Avila, was guilty of simple negligence as affirmed by the appellate court. Foreseeability is the fundamental test of negligence. To be negligent, a defendant must have acted or failed to act in such a way that an ordinary reasonable man would have realized that certain interests of certain persons were unreasonably subjected to a general but definite class of risks. In this case, the bus driver, who was driving on the right side of the road, already saw the motorcycle on the left side of the road before the collision. However, he did not take the necessary precaution to slow down, but drove on and bumped the motorcycle, and also the passenger jeep parked on the left side of the road, showing that the bus was negligent in veering to the left lane, causing it to hit the motorcycle and the passenger jeep.

 

2) As regards the issue on the damages awarded, petitioner contends that it was the only one that appealed the decision of the trial court with respect to the award of actual and moral damages; hence, the Court of Appeals erred in awarding other kinds of damages in favor of respondent, who did not appeal from the trial courts decision. This contention is unmeritorious.

 

Section 8, Rule 51 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

 

SEC. 8. Questions that may be decided. — No error which does not affect the jurisdiction over the subject matter or the validity of the judgment appealed from or the proceedings therein will be considered unless stated in the assignment of errors, or closely related to or dependent on an assigned error and properly argued in the brief, save as the court pass upon plain errors and clerical errors.

 

The procedure in the Supreme Court being generally the same as that in the Court of Appeals, unless otherwise indicated (see Secs. 2 and 4, Rule 56), it has been held that the latter is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even if they are not assigned as errors on appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just decision of the case.

 

In fine, the Court of Appeals correctly awarded civil indemnity for the death of respondents husband, temperate damages, and moral damages for the physical injuries sustained by respondent in addition to the damages granted by the trial court to respondent. The trial court overlooked awarding the additional damages, which were prayed for by respondent in her Amended Complaint. The appellate court is clothed with ample authority to review matters, even if they are not assigned as errors in the appeal, if it finds that their consideration is necessary in arriving at a just decision of the case.

 

In this case for damages based on quasi-delict, the trial court awarded respondent the sum of P745,575.00, representing loss of earning capacity (P590,000.00) and actual damages (P155,575.00 for funeral expenses), plus P50,000.00 as moral damages. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, petitioner assigned as error the award of damages by the trial court on the ground that it was based merely on suppositions and surmises, not the admissions made by respondent during the trial. In its Decision, the Court of Appeals sustained the award by the trial court for loss of earning capacity of the deceased Silvino Tan, moral damages for his death, and actual damages, although the amount of the latter award was modified.

 

The indemnity for loss of earning capacity of the deceased is provided for by Article 2206 of the Civil Code. Compensation of this nature is awarded not for loss of earnings, but for loss of capacity to earn money. As a rule, documentary evidence should be presented to substantiate the claim for damages for loss of earning capacity. By way of exception, damages for loss of earning capacity may be awarded despite the absence of documentary evidence when: (1) the deceased is self-employed and earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws, in which case, judicial notice may be taken of the fact that in the deceased’s line of work no documentary evidence is available; or (2) the deceased is employed as a daily wage worker earning less than the minimum wage under current labor laws.

 

In this case, the records show that respondents husband was leasing and operating a Caltex gasoline station in Gumaca, Quezon. Respondent testified that her husband earned an annual income of one million pesos. Respondent presented in evidence a Certificate of Creditable Income Tax Withheld at Source for the Year 1990, which showed that respondents husband earned a gross income of P950,988.43 in 1990. It is reasonable to use the Certificate and respondents testimony as bases for fixing the gross annual income of the deceased at one million pesos before respondents husband died on March 17, 1999. However, no documentary evidence was presented regarding the income derived from their copra business; hence, the testimony of respondent as regards such income cannot be considered.

 

In the computation of loss of earning capacity, only net earnings, not gross earnings, are to be considered; that is, the total of the earnings less expenses necessary for the creation of such earnings or income, less living and other incidental expenses. In the absence of documentary evidence, it is reasonable to peg necessary expenses for the lease and operation of the gasoline station at 80 percent of the gross income, and peg living expenses at 50 percent of the net income (gross income less necessary expenses).

 

In this case, the computation for loss of earning capacity is as follows:

 

Net Earning = Life Expectancy x Gross Annual Income Reasonable and Capacity [2/3 (80-age at the (GAI) Necessary time of death)] Expenses (80% of GAI)

X = [2/3 (80-65)] x P1,000,000.00 – P800,000.00

X = 2/3 (15) x P200,000.00 – P100,000.00

(Living Expenses)

X = 30/3 x P100,000.00

X = 10 x P100,000.00

X = P1,000,000.00

 

The Court of Appeals also awarded actual damages for the expenses incurred in connection with the death, wake, and interment of respondents husband in the amount ofP154,575.30, and the medical expenses of respondent in the amount of P168,019.55. Actual damages must be substantiated by documentary evidence, such as receipts, in order to prove expenses incurred as a result of the death of the victim or the physical injuries sustained by the victim. A review of the valid receipts submitted in evidence showed that the funeral and related expenses amounted only to P114,948.60, while the medical expenses of respondent amounted only to P12,244.25, yielding a total of P127,192.85 in actual damages.

 

Moreover, the Court of Appeals correctly sustained the award of moral damages in the amount of P50,000.00 for the death of respondents husband. Moral damages are not intended to enrich a plaintiff at the expense of the defendant. They are awarded to allow the plaintiff to obtain means, diversions or amusements that will serve to alleviate the moral suffering he/she has undergone due to the defendants culpable action and must, perforce, be proportional to the suffering inflicted.

 

In addition, the Court of Appeals correctly awarded temperate damages in the amount of P10,000.00 for the damage caused on respondents motorcycle. Under Art. 2224 of the Civil Code, temperate damages may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty. The cost of the repair of the motorcycle was prayed for by respondent in her Complaint. However, the evidence presented was merely a job estimate of the cost of the motorcycles repair amounting to P17, 829.00. The Court of Appeals aptly held that there was no doubt that the damage caused on the motorcycle was due to the negligence of petitioners driver. In the absence of competent proof of the actual damage caused on the motorcycle or the actual cost of its repair, the award of temperate damages by the appellate court in the amount of P10,000.00 was reasonable under the circumstances.

 

The Court of Appeals also correctly awarded respondent moral damages for the physical injuries she sustained due to the vehicular accident. Under Art. 2219 of the Civil Code, moral damages may be recovered in quasi-delicts causing physical injuries. However, the award of P50,000.00 should be reduced to P30,000.00 in accordance with prevailing jurisprudence. Further, the Court of Appeals correctly awarded respondent civil indemnity for the death of her husband, which has been fixed by current jurisprudence at P50,000.00. The award is proper under Art. 2206 of the Civil Code.

 

DISPOSITIVE:

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated August 17, 2004 in CA-G.R. CV No. 70860 is hereby AFFIRMED withMODIFICATION. Petitioner Philippine Hawk Corporation and Margarito Avila are hereby ordered to pay jointly and severally respondent Vivian Lee Tan: (a) civil indemnity in the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00); (b) actual damages in the amount of One Hundred Twenty-Seven Thousand One Hundred Ninety-Two Pesos and Eighty-Five Centavos ( P127,192.85); (c) moral damages in the amount of Eighty Thousand Pesos (P80,000.00); (d) indemnity for loss of earning capacity in the amount of One Million Pesos (P1,000,000.00); and (e) temperate damages in the amount of Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00).

 

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