Civil Law

Juan Bahia vs Fausta Litonjua and Mariano Leynes

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G.R. No. 9734 – 30 Phil. 624 – Civil Law –┬áTorts and Damages – Due Diligence as a Defense – Liability of a Person Who Rented a Car

On May 14, 1911, Mariano Leynes rented a car from International Garage owned and operated by Ramon Ramirez. As per the arrangement, Ramirez would also provide for the driver and a machinist; Ramirez provided a car which was actually owned by his mother, Fausta Litonjua. Leynes was to use the car to transport people from a fiesta for profit. The car was brand new and was only used a few hours. On May 16, 2011, while being driven on the road, the said automobile, by reason of a defect in the steering gear, refused to obey the direction of the driver in turning a corner in the streets, and, as a consequence, ran across the street and into the wall of a house against which the daughter of Juan Bahia was leaning at the time. The front of the machine struck the child in the center of the body and crushed her to death.

ISSUE: Whether or not Leynes is liable in the case at bar.

HELD: No. While it may be said that, at the time of the accident, the chauffeur who was driving the machine was a servant of Leynes, in as much as the profits derived from the trips of the automobile belonged to him and the automobile was operated under his direction, nevertheless, this fact is not conclusive in making him responsible for the negligence of the chauffeur or for defects in the automobile itself. Article 1903 of the Civil Code not only establishes liability in cases of negligence, but also provides when that liability shall cease. It says:

The liability referred to in this article shall cease when the persons mentioned therein proved that they employed all the diligence of a good father of a family to avoid the damages.

From this article two things are apparent: (1) That when an injury is caused by the negligence of a servant or employee there instantly arises a presumption of a law that there was negligence on the part of the master or employer either in the selection of the servant or employee, or in supervision over him after the selection, or both; and (2) that presumption is juris tantum and not juris et de jure, and consequently, may be rebutted. It follows necessarily that if the employer shows to the satisfaction of the court that in selection and supervision he has exercised the care and diligence of a good father of a family, the presumption is overcome and he is relieved from liability.

As to selection, Leynes has clearly shown that he exercised the care and diligence of a good father of a family. He obtained the machine from a reputable garage and it was, so far as appeared, in good condition. The workmen were likewise selected from a standard garage, were duly licensed by the Government in their particular calling, and apparently thoroughly competent. The car had been used but a few hours when the accident occurred and it is clear from the evidence that Leynes had no notice, either actual or constructive, of the defective condition of the steering gear.

While it does not appear that Leynes formulated rules and regulations for the guidance of the drivers and gave them proper instructions, designed for the protection of the public and the passengers, the evidence shows that the death of the child was not caused by a failure to promulgate rules and regulations. It was caused by a defect in the car as to which Leynes has shown himself free from responsibility.

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