Civil Law

Jose Cangco vs Manila Railroad Co.

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G.R. No. L-12191 – 30 Phil. 768 – Civil Law –┬áTorts and Damages – Distinction of Liability of Employers Under Article 2180 and Their Liability for Breach of Contract

On January 20, 1915, Cangco was riding the train of Manila Railroad Co (MRC). He was an employee of the latter and he was given a pass so that he could ride the train for free. When he was nearing his destination at about 7pm, he arose from his seat even though the train was not at full stop. When he was about to alight from the train (which was still slightly moving) he accidentally stepped on a sack of watermelons which he failed to notice due to the fact that it was dim. This caused him to lose his balance at the door and he fell and his arm was crushed by the train and he suffered other serious injuries. He was dragged a few meters more as the train slowed down.

It was established that the employees of MRC were negligent in piling the sacks of watermelons. MRC raised as a defense the fact that Cangco was also negligent as he failed to exercise diligence in alighting from the train as he did not wait for it to stop.

ISSUE: Whether or not Manila Railroad Co is liable for damages.

HELD: Yes. Alighting from a moving train while it is slowing down is a common practice and a lot of people are doing so every day without suffering injury. Cangco has the vigor and agility of young manhood, and it was by no means so risky for him to get off while the train was still moving as the same act would have been in an aged or feeble person. He was also ignorant of the fact that sacks of watermelons were there as there were no appropriate warnings and the place was dimly lit.

The Court also elucidated on the distinction between the liability of employers under Article 2180 and their liability for breach of contract [of carriage]:

Liability of Employers

NOTES: But, if the master has not been guilty of any negligence whatever in the selection and direction of the servant, he is not liable for the acts of the latter, whatever done within the scope of his employment or not, if the damage done by the servant does not amount to a breach of the contract between the master and the person injured.

The liability arising from extra-contractual culpa is always based upon a voluntary act or omission which, without willful intent, but by mere negligence or inattention, has caused damage to another.

These two fields, figuratively speaking, concentric; that is to say, the mere fact that a person is bound to another by contract does not relieve him from extra-contractual liability to such person. When such a contractual relation exists the obligor may break the contract under such conditions that the same act which constitutes the source of an extra-contractual obligation had no contract existed between the parties.

Manresa: Whether negligence occurs an incident in the course of the performance of a contractual undertaking or in itself the source of an extra-contractual undertaking obligation, its essential characteristics are identical.

Vinculum Juris: (def) It means “an obligation of law”, or the right of the obligee to enforce a civil matter in a court of law.

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