Civil Law

Mariano Mendoza et al vs Spouses Leonora and Gabriel Gomez

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G.R. No. 160110 – 736 Phil. 460 – 726 SCRA 505 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Article 2180 – Liability of Employers – Liability of Vehicle Owners – Motor Vehicle Registration Act

Mariano Mendoza was driving a Mayamy Transportation bus when he hit an elf truck. Apparently, Mendoza encroached upon the opposite lane which resulted in the mishap.

Mayamy Transportation is owned by Elvira Lim. The elf truck is owned by Spouses Leonora and Gabriel Gomez. The spouses Gomez sued Mendoza and Lim.

In court, Lim testified that the bus was actually owned by one Cirilo Enriquez and was only attached to Mayamy under the “kabit” system.

ISSUE: Whether or not Lim is civilly liable for the tortious act of the driver.

HELD: Yes. Lim is vicariously liable. There is no doubt that Mendoza was negligent. Vicarious liability or imputed negligence is embodied in Article 2180 of the Civil Code and the basis for damages in the action under said article is the direct and primary negligence of the employer in the selection or supervision, or both, of his employee.

Lim, being the registered owner is deemed the employer of the negligent driver, and is thus vicariously liable. In so far as third persons are concerned, the registered owner of the motor vehicle is the employer of the negligent driver, and the actual employer is considered merely as an agent of such owner. Thus, whether there is an employer-employee relationship between the registered owner and the driver is irrelevant in determining the liability of the registered owner who the law holds primarily and directly responsible for any accident, injury or death caused by the operation of the vehicle in the streets and highways.

Further, with the enactment of the motor vehicle registration law, the defenses available under Article 2180 of the Civil Code – that the employee acts beyond the scope of his assigned task or that it exercised the due diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage – are no longer available to the registered owner of the motor vehicle, because the motor vehicle registration law, to a certain extent, modified Article 2180.

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