Civil Law

Balbino Cuison vs Norton & Harrison Co.

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G.R. No. L-32774 – 55 Phil. 18 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Liability of Employers

Antonio Ora was the owner of a truck which transports lumbers owned by Norton & Harrison Co. Ora employed two minors as his helpers in securing the lumbers from the lumberyard. In August 1928, while the truck filled with with lumber was at a stop, the lumbers slid from the truck thereby pinning the 7 year old son of Balbino Cuison which caused the boy’s death. Cuison sued Norton and the 2 minors for damages amounting to P30,000.00.

ISSUE: Whether or not Norton is liable as an employer.

HELD: Yes. Although the lower court did not determine the nature of relationship between Ora and Norton it can be deduced from the testimonies given that Ora, as owner of the truck is a contractor of Norton. But at the same time, he is also an employee of Norton because he also acts as a foreman of the company. This being established, Norton is liable as an employer because of Ora’s negligence in directing his men in terms of securing the lumbers. The pertinent provisions apply:

Any person who by an act or omission causes damage to another by his fault or negligence shall be liable for the damage so done. Article 1903, paragraphs 4 and 7 of the [old Civil] Code provides: Owners or directors of any establishment or business are, in the same way, liable for any damages caused by their employees while engaged in the branch of the service in which employed, or an occasion of the performance of their duties. The liability imposed by this article shall cease in case the persons subject thereto prove that they exercised all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent the damage.

Norton failed to prove that they exercised diligence in the selection of their employees. Note further that the basis of civil liability of an employer is not respondeat superior but the relationship of paterfamilias (or pater familias – can be spelled both ways). The theory of pater familias bases the liability of the master ultimately on his own negligence i.e. selection of employees, and not that of his servant.

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