G.R. No. L-24101 – 35 SCRA 160 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Liability of Parents
Maria Teresa Cuadra and Maria Teresa Monfort were both classmates at Mabini Elementary School, Bacolod City. In July 1962, their teacher assigned the class to weed the school premises. While they were doing so, MT Monfort found a headband and she jokingly shouted that it as an earthworm and thereafter tossed it at MT Cuadra who was hit in her eye. MT Cuadra’s eye got infected. She was brought to the hospital; her eyes were attempted to be surgically repaired but she nevertheless got blind in her right eye. MT Cuadra’s parents sued Alfonso Monfort (MT Monfort’s dad) based on Article 2180 of the Civil Code. The lower court ruled that Monfort should pay for actual damages (cost of hospitalization), moral damages and attorney’s fees.
ISSUE: Whether or not Monfort is liable under Article 2180.
HELD: No. Article 2180 provides that the father, in case of his incapacity or death, the mother, is responsible for the damages caused by the minor children who live in their company. The basis of this vicarious, although primary, liability is fault or negligence, which is presumed from that which accompanied the causative act or omission. The presumption is merely prima facie and may therefore be rebutted. This is the clear and logical inference that may be drawn from the last paragraph of Article 2180, which states “that the responsibility treated of in this Article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.”
In the case at bar there is nothing from which it may be inferred that Alfonso Monfort could have prevented the damage by the observance of due care, or that he was in any way remiss in the exercise of his parental authority in failing to foresee such damage, or the act which caused it. On the contrary, his child was at school, where it was his duty to send her and where she was, as he had the right to expect her to be, under the care and supervision of the teacher. And as far as the act which caused the injury was concerned, it was an innocent prank not unusual among children at play and which no parent, however careful, would have any special reason to anticipate much less guard against. Nor did it reveal any mischievous propensity, or indeed any trait in the child’s character which would reflect unfavorably on her upbringing and for which the blame could be attributed to her parents.
JUSTICE BARREDO Dissenting;
MT Monfort is already 13 years old and should have known that by jokingly saying “aloud that she had found an earthworm and, evidently to frighten the Cuadra girl, tossed the object at her,” it was likely that something would happen to her friend, as in fact, she was hurt. There is nothing in the record that would indicate that Alfonso had properly advised his daughter to behave properly and not to play dangerous jokes on her classmate and playmates, he can be liable under Article 2180 of the Civil Code. There is nothing in the record to show that he had done anything at all to even try to minimize the damage caused upon by his child.