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G.R. No. 75112 – 212 SCRA 637 – Labor Law – Post-Employment – Employer-Employee Relationship – The School and its Working Students – Section 14, Rule X, Book III, IRR (Labor Code)
Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Liability of Schools for the Tortious Acts of its Working Students
NOTE: This case reversed Filamer vs IAC (190 SCRA 477, 16 October 1990)
Daniel Funtecha was a working student at the Filamer Christian Institute. He was assigned as the school janitor to clean the school 2 hours every morning. Allan Masa was the son of the school president and at the same time he was the school’s jeepney service driver. On October 20, 1977 at about 6:30pm, after driving the students to their homes, Masa returned to the school to report and thereafter have to go home with the jeep so that he could fetch the students early in the morning. Masa and Funtecha live in the same place so they usually go home together. Funtecha had a student driver’s license so Masa let him take the driver’s seat. While Funtecha was driving, he accidentally hit an elderly Potenciano Kapunan, Sr. which led in his hospitalization for 20 days. Kapunan filed a criminal case and an independent civil action based on Article 2180 against Funtecha.
In the independent civil action, the lower court ruled that Filamer is subsidiarily liable for the tortious act of Funcheta and was compelled to pay for damages based on Article 2180 which provides that employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks. Filamer assailed the decision and it argued that under Section 14, Rule X, Book III of the Labor Code IRR, working scholars are excluded from the employment coverage hence there is no employer-employee relations between Filamer and Funcheta; that the negligent act of Funcheta was due to negligence only attributable to him alone as it is outside his assigned task of being the school janitor. The CA denied Filamer’s appeal but the Supreme Court agreed with Filamer. Kapunan filed for a motion for reconsideration.
ISSUE: Whether or not Filamer should be held subsidiarily liable.
HELD: Yes. This time, the SC ruled in favor of Kapunan (actually his heirs cause by this time Kapunan was already dead). The provisions of Section 14, Rule X, Book III of the Labor Code IRR was only meant to provide guidelines as compliance with labor provisions on working conditions, rest periods, and wages is concerned. This does not in any way affect the provisions of any other laws like the civil code. The IRR cannot defeat the provisions of the Civil Code. In other words, Rule X is merely a guide to the enforcement of the substantive law on labor. There is a distinction hence Section 14, Rule X, Book III of the Rules is not the decisive law in a civil suit for damages instituted by an injured person during a vehicular accident against a working student of a school and against the school itself.
The present case does not deal with a labor dispute on conditions of employment between an alleged employee and an alleged employer. It invokes a claim brought by one for damages for injury caused by the patently negligent acts of a person, against both doer-employee and his employer. Hence, the reliance on the implementing rule on labor to disregard the primary liability of an employer under Article 2180 of the Civil Code is misplaced. An implementing rule on labor cannot be used by an employer as a shield to void liability under the substantive provisions of the Civil Code.
Funtecha is an employee of Filamer. He need not have an official appointment for a driver’s position in order that Filamer may be held responsible for his grossly negligent act, it being sufficient that the act of driving at the time of the incident was for the benefit of Filamer (the act of driving the jeep from the school to Masa’s house is beneficial to the school because this enables Masa to do a timely school transportation service in the morning). Hence, the fact that Funtecha was not the school driver or was not acting within the scope of his janitorial duties does not relieve Filamer of the burden of rebutting the presumption juris tantum that there was negligence on its part either in the selection of a servant or employee, or in the supervision over him. Filamer has failed to show proof of its having exercised the required diligence of a good father of a family over its employees Funtecha and Allan.