Civil Law

J.H. Chapman vs James Underwood

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G.R. No. L-9010 – 27 Phil. 374 – Civil Law –┬áTorts and Damages – Liability of owners of motor vehicles

The facts of the case took place in the 1910’s. J.H. Chapman visited a friend in Santa Ana and while he was about to ride a vehicle to take him home he was struck by a car owned by James Underwood and driven by his chauffeur. Chapman was on the correct lane. Underwood was riding in the car when the incident happened. Apparently, the chauffeur, coming from the opposite direction and was driving straight ahead and when the automobile about to be boarded by Chapman was in front of him, he [the chauffeur] instead of swerving left he suddenly swerved right to the direction of Chapman thereby hitting and running over him.

ISSUE: Whether or not Underwood is liable for the negligent act of his chauffeur.

HELD: No. The general rule is that an owner who sits in his automobile, or other vehicle, and permits his driver to continue in a violation of the law by the performance of negligent acts, after he has had a reasonable opportunity to observe them and to direct that the driver cease therefrom, becomes himself responsible for such acts. On the other hand, if the driver, by a sudden act of negligence, and without the owner having a reasonable opportunity to prevent the acts or its continuance, injures a person or violates the criminal law, the owner of the automobile, although present therein at the time the act was committed, is not responsible, either civilly or criminally, therefor. The act complained of must be continued in the presence of the owner for such a length a time that the owner, by his acquiescence, makes his driver’s act his own. In the case at bar, it was not shown that there was a sufficient period for Underwood to dissuade the chauffeur from the negligent act as the swerving of the vehicle by the chauffeur was sudden.

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