Civil Law

City of Manila vs Genaro Teotico

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G.R. No. L-23052 – 22 SCRA 267 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Liability of municipal corporations in certain cases

General Principles – General Law vs Special Law – A Special Law may contain General Laws and Vice Versa

One day in January 1958, at about 8pm, Genaro Teotico was about to board a jeepney in P. Burgos, Manila when he fell into an uncovered manhole. This caused injuries upon him. Thereafter he sued for damages under Article 2189 of the Civil Code against the City of Manila, the mayor, the city engineer, the city health officer, the city treasurer, and the chief of police. CFI Manila ruled against Teotico. The CA, on appeal, ruled that the City of Manila should pay damages to Teotico. The City of Manila assailed the decision of the CA on the ground that the charter of Manila states that it shall not be liable for damages caused by the negligence of the city officers in enforcing the charter; that the charter is a special law and shall prevail over the Civil Code which is a general law; and that the accident happened in national highway which is not within the responsibility of the City of Manila.

ISSUE: Whether or not the City of Manila is liable in the case at bar.

HELD: Yes. It is true that in case of conflict, a special law prevails over a general law; that the charter of Manila is a special law and that the Civil Code is a general law. However, looking at the particular provisions of each law concerned, the provision of the Manila Charter exempting it from liability caused by the negligence of its officers is a general law in the sense that it exempts the city from negligence of its officers in general. There is no particular exemption but merely a general exemption. On the other hand, Article 2189 of the Civil Code provides a particular prescription to the effect that it makes provinces, cities, and municipalities liable for the damages caused to a certain person by reason of the “defective condition of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings, and other-public works under their control or supervision.”

The allegation that the incident happened in a national highway was only raised for the first time in the City’s motion for reconsideration in the Court of Appeals, hence it cannot be given consideration. At any rate, even though it is a national highway, the law contemplates that regardless if whether or not the road is national, provincial, city, or municipal, so long as it is under the City’s control and supervision, it shall be responsible for damages by reason of the defective conditions thereof. In the case at bar, the City admitted they have control and supervision over the road where Teotico fell when the City alleged that it has been doing constant and regular inspection of the city’s roads, P. Burgos included.

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