Remedial Law

Air France vs Rafael Carrascoso

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G.R. No. L-21438 – 124 Phil. 722 – 18 SCRA 155 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Liability – Culpa Aquiliana – Culpa Contractual

Remedial Law – Evidence – Testimonial Evidence – Hearsay Rule – Exception; Res Gestae – Startling Event

In March 1958, Rafael Carrascoso and several other Filipinos were tourists en route to Rome from Manila. Carrascoso was issued a first class round trip ticket by Air France. But during a stop-over in Bangkok, he was asked by the plane manager of Air France to vacate his seat because a white man allegedly has a “better right” than him. Carrascoso protested but when things got heated and upon advise of other Filipinos on board, Carrascoso gave up his seat and was transferred to the plane’s tourist class.

After their tourist trip when Carrascoso was already in the Philippines, he sued Air France for damages for the embarrassment he suffered during his trip. In court, Carrascoso testified, among others, that when he was forced to take the tourist class, he went to the plane’s pantry where he was approached by a plane purser who told him that he noted in the plane’s journal the following:

First-class passenger was forced to go to the tourist class against his will, and that the captain refused to intervene

The said testimony was admitted in favor of Carrascoso. The trial court eventually awarded damages in favor of Carrascoso. This was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Air France is assailing the decision of the trial court and the CA. It avers that the issuance of a first class ticket to Carrascoso was not an assurance that he will be seated in first class because allegedly in truth and in fact, that was not the true intent between the parties.

Air France also questioned the admissibility of Carrascoso’s testimony regarding the note made by the purser because the said note was never presented in court.

ISSUE 1: Whether or not Air France is liable for damages and on what basis.

ISSUE 2: Whether or not the testimony of Carrasoso regarding the note which was not presented in court is admissible in evidence.

HELD 1: Yes. It appears that Air France’s liability is based on culpa-contractual and on culpa aquiliana.

Culpa Contractual

There exists a contract of carriage between Air France and Carrascoso. There was a contract to furnish Carrasocoso a first class passage; Second, That said contract was breached when Air France failed to furnish first class transportation at Bangkok; and Third, that there was bad faith when Air France’s employee compelled Carrascoso to leave his first class accommodation berth “after he was already, seated” and to take a seat in the tourist class, by reason of which he suffered inconvenience, embarrassments and humiliations, thereby causing him mental anguish, serious anxiety, wounded feelings and social humiliation, resulting in moral damages.

The Supreme Court did not give credence to Air France’s claim that the issuance of a first class ticket to a passenger is not an assurance that he will be given a first class seat. Such claim is simply incredible.

Culpa Aquiliana

Here, the SC ruled, even though there is a contract of carriage between Air France and Carrascoso, there is also a tortuous act based on culpa aquiliana. Passengers do not contract merely for transportation. They have a right to be treated by the carrier’s employees with kindness, respect, courtesy and due consideration. They are entitled to be protected against personal misconduct, injurious language, indignities and abuses from such employees. So it is, that any rule or discourteous conduct on the part of employees towards a passenger gives the latter an action for damages against the carrier. Air France’s contract with Carrascoso is one attended with public duty. The stress of Carrascoso’s action is placed upon his wrongful expulsion. This is a violation of public duty by the Air France – a case of quasi-delict. Damages are proper.

HELD: 2: Yes. The testimony of Carrascoso must be admitted based on res gestae. The subject of inquiry is not the entry, but the ouster incident. Testimony on the entry does not come within the proscription of the best evidence rule. Such testimony is admissible. Besides, when the dialogue between Carrascoso and the purser happened, the impact of the startling occurrence was still fresh and continued to be felt. The excitement had not as yet died down. Statements then, in this environment, are admissible as part of the res gestae. The utterance of the purser regarding his entry in the notebook was spontaneous, and related to the circumstances of the ouster incident. Its trustworthiness has been guaranteed. It thus escapes the operation of the hearsay rule. It forms part of the res gestae.

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