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Contributory negligence

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If the proximate cause of the injury is the defendant, the plaintiff can recover damages

Negligence is “the conduct which creates undue risk of harm to another, the failure to observe that degree of care, precaution and vigilance that the circumstance justly demand, whereby that other person suffers injury” (Philippine National Construction Corporation v. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“The test for determining whether a person is negligent in doing an act whereby injury or damage results to the person or property of another is this: could a prudent man, in the position of the person to whom negligence is attributed, foresee harm to the person injured as a reasonable consequence of the course actually pursued?” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“The question as to what would constitute the conduct of a prudent man in a given situation must of course be always determined in the light of human experience and in view of the facts involved in the particular case.”

“Reasonable men govern their conduct by the circumstances which are before them or known to them, [t]hey are not… omniscient of the future” (Picart v. Smith, G.R. L-12219, March 15, 1918).

“Hence, they can be expected to take care only when there is something before them to suggest or warn of danger.”

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“Conduct is said to be negligent when a prudent man in the position of the tortfeasor would have foreseen that an effect harmful to another was sufficiently probable to warrant his foregoing conduct or guarding against its consequences” (Picart v. Smith, G.R. L-12219, March 15, 1918).

With this in mind, “[w]hoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done” (Article 2176, Civil Code of the Philippines). However, “[w]hen the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of the injury, he cannot recover damages” (Article 2179, Civil Code of the Philippines).

If the proximate cause of the injury is the defendant, the plaintiff can recover damages.

“[And] if [the plaintiff’s] negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury being the defendant’s lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded” (Article 2179, Civil Code of the Philippines).

In the case of Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) v. Court of Appeals, et al., Pampanga Sugar Development Company, Inc. and the Toll Regulatory Board entered into a Memorandum of Agreement wherein the former was allowed to enter and pass through the North Luzon Expressway.

In the early morning of January 23, 1993, Alex Sendin, PNCC security personnel supervisor together with two (2) other co-employees were patrolling Km. 72 going north of the NLEX.

“They saw a pile of sugarcane in the middle portion of the north and southbound lanes of the road, [and] [t]hey placed… lane dividers with reflectorized markings, to warn motorists of the obstruction.”

They “proceeded to the PASUDECO office, believing that the pile of sugarcane belonged to it since it was the only milling company in the area.

They requested for a payloader or grader to clear the area.

However, Engineer Oscar Mallari, PASUDECO’s equipment supervisor and transportation superintendent, told them that no equipment operator was available as it was still very early” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“Nonetheless, Mallari told them that he would send someone to clear the affected area. Thereafter, [the PNCC employees] went back to Km. 72 and manned the traffic [until]… around 4:00 a.m., [when] five PASUDECO men arrived and started clearing the highway of the sugarcane [and]… stacked the sugarcane at the side of the road” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“As the bulk of the sugar canes had been piled and transferred along the roadside, Sendin thought there was no longer a need to man the traffic.

As dawn was already approaching, [the PNCC personnel] removed the lighted cans and lane dividers [and] Sendin went to his office in Sta. Rita, Guiguinto, Bulacan, and made the necessary report” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“At about 6:30 a.m., Rodrigo S. Arnaiz, a certified mechanic and marketing manager of JETTY Marketing, Inc., was driving his two-door Toyota Corolla… along the NLEX at about 65 kilometers per hour… with his sister Regina Latagan, and his friend Ricardo Generalao… on their way to Baguio… ran over the scattered sugarcane, [and] flew out of control and turned turtle several times” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

The Supreme Court said “that the petitioner (PNCC) failed to exercise the requisite diligence in maintaining the NLEX safe for motorists.

“The lighted cans and lane dividers on the highway were removed even as flattened sugarcanes lay scattered on the ground [while] [t]he highway was still wet from the juice and sap of the flattened sugarcanes” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

Affirming the findings of the Court of Appeals, “[b]oth defendants, appellant PASUDECO and appellee PNCC, should be held liable.

“PNCC, in charge of the maintenance of the expressway, has been negligent in the performance of its duties. The obligation of PNCC should not be relegated to, by virtue of a private agreement, to other parties” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“PASUDECO’s negligence in transporting sugar canes without proper harness/straps, and that of PNCC in removing the emergency warning devices, were two successive negligent acts which were the direct and proximate cause of Latagan’s injuries.

“As such, PASUDECO and PNCC are jointly and severally liable” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“Where the concurrent or successive negligent acts or omissions of two or more persons, although acting independently, are in combination with the direct and proximate cause of a single injury to a third person, it is impossible to determine in what proportion each contributed to the injury and either of them is responsible for the whole injury” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“Thus, with PASUDECO’s and the petitioner’s successive negligent acts, [make them] joint tortfeasors who are solidarily liable…”

However, regarding the “respondent Arnaiz’s negligence in driving his car [at an unreasonably high speed], both the trial court and the CA agreed it was only contributory and considered the same in mitigating the award of damages in his favor as provided under Article 2179 of the New Civil Code” (G.R. 159270, August 22, 2005).

“Contributory negligence is conduct on the part of the injured party, contributing as a legal cause to the harm he has suffered, which falls below the standard which he is required to conform for his own protection.

“It is an act or omission amounting to want of ordinary care on the part of the person injured which, concurring with the defendant’s negligence, is the proximate cause of the injury” (G.R. 190022, February 15, 2012).

In the case of Philippine National Railways Corporation, et al. v. Vizacara, et al., “[i]t was established during the trial that the jeepney carrying the respondents was following a ten-wheeler truck which was only about three to five meters ahead.

“When the truck proceeded to traverse the railroad track, Reynaldo, the driver of the jeepney, simply followed through [because he was] under the impression that it was safe to proceed” (G.R. 190022, February 15, 2012).

“[T]here was no crossing bar to prevent them from proceeding or, at least, a stoplight or signage to forewarn them of the approaching peril.”

“He proceeded to cross the track and, all of a sudden, his jeepney was rammed by the train being operated by the petitioners… [these] circumstances … negate the imputation of contributory negligence on the part of the respondents” (G.R. 190022, February 15, 2012).

In the case of De la Cruz v. Octaviano, et al., “[p]laintiff Renato Octaviano’s right leg was crushed by the impact of the Honda Civic driven by defendant Dela Cruz against the tricycle where the Octavianos were riding and as a result thereof, Renato’s right leg was amputated.

“Plaintiff Wilma Octaviano suffered traumatic injuries/hematoma on different parts of her body…” (G.R. 219649, July 26, 2017).

Full text at www.manilastandard.net

In not finding contributory negligence on the part of the tricycle driver and respondent Renato (for violating a municipal ordinance that limits the number of passengers for each tricycle), the Supreme Court said “that negligence per se, arising from the mere violation of a traffic statute, need not be sufficient in itself in establishing liability for damages.”

“To hold a person as having contributed to his injuries, it must be shown that he performed an act that brought about his injuries in disregard of warning or signs of an impending danger to health and body.

“To prove contributory negligence, it is still necessary to establish a causal link, although not proximate, between the negligence of the party and the succeeding injury” (G.R. 219649, July 26, 2017).

“In a legal sense, negligence is contributory only when it contributes proximately to the injury, and not simply a condition for its occurrence.

“In this case, the causal link between the alleged negligence of the tricycle driver and respondent Renato [to the car that collided with it] was not established” (G.R. 219649, July 26, 2017).

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