Republic of the Philippines
G.R. No. 172200 July 6, 2010
THE HEIRS OF REDENTOR COMPLETO and ELPIDIO ABIAD, Petitioners,
SGT. AMANDO C. ALBAYDA, JR., Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
Before the Court is a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the Decision1 dated January 2, 2006 and the Resolution2 dated March 30, 2006 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 68405.
The facts of the case are as follows:
Respondent Amando C. Albayda, Jr. (Albayda) is a Master Sergeant of the Philippine Air Force, 527th Base Security Squadron, 520th Airbase, Philippine Air Force, located at Villamor Air Base (VAB), Pasay City. Petitioner Redentor Completo (Completo), now represented by his heirs, was the taxi driver of a Toyota Corolla, bearing Plate No. PYD-128, owned and operated by co-petitioner Elpidio Abiad (Abiad).3 Albayda and Completo figured in an accident along the intersection of 8th and 11th Streets, VAB. Albayda filed a complaint for damages before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasay City. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 98-1333.4
The amended complaint alleged that, on August 27, 1997, while Albayda was on his way to the office to report for duty, riding a bicycle along 11th Street, the taxi driven by Completo bumped and sideswiped him, causing serious physical injuries. Albayda was brought to the Philippine Air Force General Hospital (PAFGH) inside VAB. However, he was immediately transferred to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center (AFPMC) on V. Luna Road, Quezon City, because there was a fracture in his left knee and there was no orthopedic doctor available at PAFGH. From August 27, 1997 until February 11, 1998, he was confined therein. He was again hospitalized at PAFGH from February 23, 1998 until March 22, 1998.5
Conciliation between the parties before the barangay failed. Thus, Albayda filed a complaint for physical injuries through reckless imprudence against Completo before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasay City. On the other hand, Completo filed a counter-charge of damage to property through reckless imprudence against Albayda. On January 13, 1998, the Office of the City Prosecutor issued a resolution,6 recommending the filing of an information for reckless imprudence resulting in physical injuries against Completo. The counter-charge of damage to property was recommended dismissed.7
The case was raffled to the Metropolitan Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 45, where Albayda manifested his reservation to file a separate civil action for damages against petitioners Completo and Abiad.8
Albayda alleged that the proximate cause of the incident which necessitated his stay in the hospital for approximately seven (7) months was the negligence of Completo who, at the time of the accident, was in the employ of Abiad. The pain he suffered required him to undergo medical physiotherapy for a number of years to regain normality of his left knee joint, and he claimed that he incurred actual damages totaling Two Hundred Seventy-Six Thousand Five Hundred Fifty Pesos (₱276,550.00), inclusive of his anticipated operations.9
He further stated that aggravating the physical sufferings, mental anguish, frights, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings, moral shock, and social humiliation resulting from his injuries, his wife abandoned him in May 1998, and left their children in his custody. He thus demanded the amount of Six Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱600,000.00) as moral damages. He likewise asked for exemplary damages in the amount of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱200,000.00) and attorney’s fees of Twenty-Five Thousand Pesos (₱25,000.00), plus One Thousand Pesos (₱1,000.00) per court appearance.10
In his answer to the amended complaint, Completo alleged that, on August 27, 1997, he was carefully driving the taxicab along 8th Street, VAB, when suddenly he heard a strange sound from the rear right side of the taxicab. When he stopped to investigate, he found Albayda lying on the road and holding his left leg. He immediately rendered assistance and brought Albayda to PAFGH for emergency treatment.11
Completo also asserted that he was an experienced driver who, in accordance with traffic rules and regulations and common courtesy to his fellow motorists, had already reduced his speed to twenty (20) kilometers per hour even before reaching the intersection of 8th and 11th Streets. In contrast, Albayda rode his bicycle at a very high speed, causing him to suddenly lose control of the bicycle and hit the rear door on the right side of the taxicab.12
The deep indentation on the rear right door of the taxicab was caused by the impact of Albayda’s body that hit the taxicab after he had lost control of the bicycle; while the slight indentation on the right front door of the taxicab was caused by the impact of the bike that hit the taxicab after Albayda let go of its handles when he had lost control of it.13
Completo maintained that Albayda had no cause of action. The accident and the physical injuries suffered by Albayda were caused by his own negligence, and his purpose in filing the complaint was to harass petitioners and unjustly enrich himself at their expense.14
After submission of the parties’ respective pleadings, a pretrial conference was held. On December 8, 1998, the RTC issued a pretrial order. Thereafter, trial on the merits ensued.15
Albayda presented himself, Michael Navarro (Navarro), Dr. Rito Barrosa, Jr. (Dr. Barrosa), Dr. Armando Sta. Ana, Jr., Dr. Ranny Santiago, (Dr. Santiago), and Dr. Manuel Fidel Magtira (Dr. Magtira) as witnesses in open court.16
On direct examination, Navarro testified that, on August 27, 1997, at around 1:45 p.m., he saw a taxicab, with Plate No. PYD-128, coming from 11th Street, running at an unusual speed. The normal speed should have been twenty-five (25) kilometers per hour. He was at the corner of 9th and 8th Streets when the taxicab passed by him. The side of the bicycle was hit by the taxicab at the intersection of 11th and 8th Streets. He saw Albayda fall to the ground, grimacing in pain. The taxicab at that moment was about ten (10) meters away from Albayda. On cross-examination, Navarro reiterated that the taxicab was running quite fast. The bicycle ridden by Albayda reached the intersection of 8th and 11th Streets before the taxicab hit it.17
Dr. Santiago, the orthopedic surgeon who treated Albayda when the latter was admitted at AFPMC, testified that the cause of the injury was "hard impact," and recommended an operation to alleviate the suffering. On cross-examination, he said that there was a separation of the fragments of the proximal leg, the injured extremity, called levia. They placed the victim on knee traction or calcaneal traction,18 in order to avoid further swelling. They bore the calcanean bone with a stainless steel pin so that they could put five percent (5%) of the body weight of the patient to cool down the leg. He treated Albayda for three (3) months. He recommended surgery, but the victim had other medical problems, like an increase in sugar level, and they were waiting for the availability of the implant. The implant was supposed to be placed on the lateral aspect of the proximal leg or the levia, the part with the separation. It was a long implant with screws.19
Dr. Magtira testified that Albayda was readmitted at AFPMC on January 25, 1999 because of complaints of pain and limitation of motion on the knee joint. Upon evaluation, the pain was caused by traumatic arthritis brought about by malunion of the lateral trivial condial. An operation of the soft tissue release was conducted for him to mobilize his knee joint and attain proper range of motion. After the operation, Albayda attained functional range of motion, but because of subsisting pain, they had to do osteoplasty20 of the malunion, which was another operation. On cross-examination, Dr. Magtira testified that he rendered free medical service at AFPMC.21
Albayda testified that he was thirty-six (36) years old and a soldier of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. On August 27, 1997, at around 1:40 p.m., he was riding his bike on his way to the office, located on 916 Street, VAB. He had to stop at the corner of 11th and 8th Streets because an oncoming taxicab was moving fast. However, the taxicab still bumped the front tire of his bike, hit his left knee and threw him off until he fell down on the road. The taxicab stopped about ten meters away, and then moved backwards. Its driver, Completo, just stared at him. When somebody shouted to bring him to the hospital, two (2) persons, one of whom was Dr. Barrosa, helped him and carried him into the taxicab driven by Completo, who brought him to PAFGH.22
Upon examination, it was found that Albayda suffered fracture in his left knee and that it required an operation. No orthopedic doctor was available at PAFGH. Thus, he was transferred that same afternoon to AFPMC, where he was confined until February 11, 1998.23
At AFPMC, Albayda’s left leg was drilled on and attached to traction. When his leg was drilled, it was so painful that he had to shout. After his release from the hospital, he continued to suffer pain in his leg. He underwent reflexology and therapy which offered temporary relief from pain. But after some time, he had to undergo therapy and reflexology again.24
On January 25, 1999, Albayda was readmitted at AFPMC and operated on. On June 24, 1999, he was operated on again. Wire and screw were installed so that he could bend his knee. Nonetheless, he continued to suffer pain. As of the date of his testimony in court, he was scheduled for another operation in January 2000, when the steel that would be installed in his leg arrives.25
For his food, Albayda spent Thirty Pesos (₱30.00) each day during his six (6) months of confinement; for his bed pan, One Thousand Pesos (₱1,000.00); for his twice weekly reflexology, Three Hundred Pesos (₱300.00) every session since April 1997; for his caretaker, ₱300.00 per day for six months. He also asked for ₱600,000.00 in moral damages because Completo did not lend him a helping hand, and he would be suffering deformity for the rest of his life. He demanded ₱25,000.00 as attorney’s fees and ₱1,000.00 for every court appearance of his lawyer.26
On cross-examination, Albayda testified that, on the date of the incident, he was the base guard at VAB, and his duty was from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. That afternoon, he was not in a hurry to go to his place of work because it was only about 1:45 p.m., and his place of work was only six (6) meters away. After the accident, he was brought to PAFGH, and at 3:00 p.m., he was brought to the AFPMC. When he was discharged from the hospital, he could no longer walk.27
Dr. Barrosa’s testimony during cross-examination emphasized that he was with 2 other persons when he carried Albayda into the taxicab driven by Completo. He was certain that it was not Completo who carried the victim into the taxicab. It was only a matter of seconds when he rushed to the scene of the accident. The taxicab backed up fifteen (15) seconds later. Albayda lay 2 meters away from the corner of 8th and 11th Streets.28
Completo, Abiad, and Benjamin Panican (Panican) testified for the defense.29
Completo alleged that he had been employed as taxi driver of FOJS Transport, owned by Abiad, since February 1997. On August 27, 1997, he was driving the taxicab, with Plate No. PYD-128, from 10:00 a.m. At around 1:45 p.m., he was on his way home when a bicycle bumped his taxicab at the intersection of 8th and 11th Streets, VAB. The bicycle was travelling from south to north, and he was going east coming from the west. The bicycle was coming from 11th Street, while he was travelling along 8th Street.30
On cross-examination, Completo testified that when Albayda hit the rear right door of the taxicab, the latter fell to the ground. When he heard a noise, he immediately alighted from the taxicab. He denied that he stopped about 10 meters away from the place where Albayda fell. He carried Albayda and drove him to the hospital.31
Panican testified that he worked as an airconditioner technician in a shop located on 8th Street corner 11th Street. On the date and time of the incident, he was working in front of the shop near the roadside. He saw a bicycle bump the rear right side of the taxicab. Then, the driver of the taxicab alighted, carried Albayda, and brought him to the hospital.32
When questioned by the trial court, Panican testified that the bicycle was running fast and that he saw it bump the taxicab. The taxicab already passed the intersection of 11th and 8th Streets when the bicycle arrived.33
Abiad testified that, aside from being a soldier, he was also a franchise holder of taxicabs and passenger jeepneys. When Completo applied as a driver of the taxicab, Abiad required the former to show his bio-data, NBI clearance, and driver’s license. Completo never figured in a vehicular accident since the time he was employed in February 1997. Abiad averred that Completo was a good driver and a good man. Being the operator of taxicab, Abiad would wake up early and personally check all the taxicabs.34
On July 31, 2000, the trial court rendered a decision,35 the dispositive portion of which reads:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiff [Albayda] and against the defendants [Completo and Abiad]. Accordingly, the defendants [Completo and Abiad] are hereby ordered to pay the plaintiff [Albayda] the following sum:
1. ₱46,000.00 as actual damages;
2. ₱400,000.00 as moral damages; [and]
3. ₱25,000.00 as attorney’s fees.
Costs against the defendants [Completo and Abiad].
Completo and Abiad filed an appeal. The CA affirmed the trial court with modification in a Decision37 dated January 2, 2006, viz.:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appeal is DENIED for lack of merit. The assailed Decision dated 31 July 2000 rendered by the Regional Trial Court of Pasay City, Branch 117, in Civil Case No. 98-1333 is hereby AFFIRMED with the following MODIFICATIONS:
1. the award of Php 46,000.00 as actual damages is DELETED;
2. temperate damages in the amount of Php 40,000.00 is awarded in favor of appellee;
3. moral damages in favor of appellee is REDUCED to Php 200,000.00;
4. appellants Redentor Completo and Elpidio Abiad are solidarily liable to pay appellee Amando C. Albayda, Jr. said temperate and moral damages, as well as the attorney’s fees in the amount of Php 25,000.00 awarded by the trial court;
5. the temperate and moral damages shall earn legal interest at 6% per annum computed from the date of promulgation of Our Decision;
6. upon finality of Our Decision, said moral and temperate damages shall earn legal interest at the rate of 12% per annum, in lieu of 6% per annum, until full payment. Costs against appellants.
Hence, this petition.
Petitioners presented the following issues for resolution: (1) whether the CA erred in finding that Completo was the one who caused the collision;
(2) whether Abiad failed to prove that he observed the diligence of a good father of the family; and (3) whether the award of moral and temperate damages and attorney’s fees to Albayda had no basis.39
The Ruling of the Court
The petition is bereft of merit.
I. On Negligence
The issues raised by petitioners essentially delve into factual matters which were already passed upon by the RTC and the CA. Conclusions and findings of fact of the trial court are entitled to great weight on appeal and should not be disturbed unless for strong and cogent reasons, because the trial court is in a better position to examine real evidence, as well as to observe the demeanor of the witnesses while testifying in the case. The fact that the CA adopted the findings of fact of the trial court makes the same binding upon this Court. Well-settled is the rule that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts.40 To be sure, findings of fact of lower courts are deemed conclusive and binding upon the Supreme Court, save only for clear and exceptional reasons,41 none of which is present in the case at bar.
The instant case involved a collision between a taxicab and a bicycle which resulted in serious physical injuries to the bicycle rider, Albayda. It is a rule in negligence suits that the plaintiff has the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence the motorist’s breach in his duty of care owed to the plaintiff, that the motorist was negligent in failing to exercise the diligence required to avoid injury to the plaintiff, and that such negligence was the proximate cause of the injury suffered.42
Article 2176 of the Civil Code provides that whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no preexisting contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict. In this regard, the question of the motorist's negligence is a question of fact.
It was proven by a preponderance of evidence that Completo failed to exercise reasonable diligence in driving the taxicab because he was over-speeding at the time he hit the bicycle ridden by Albayda. Such negligence was the sole and proximate cause of the serious physical injuries sustained by Albayda. Completo did not slow down even when he approached the intersection of 8th and 11th Streets of VAB. It was also proven that Albayda had the right of way, considering that he reached the intersection ahead of Completo.
The bicycle occupies a legal position that is at least equal to that of other vehicles lawfully on the highway, and it is fortified by the fact that usually more will be required of a motorist than a bicyclist in discharging his duty of care to the other because of the physical advantages the automobile has over the bicycle.43
At the slow speed of ten miles per hour, a bicyclist travels almost fifteen feet per second, while a car traveling at only twenty-five miles per hour covers almost thirty-seven feet per second, and split-second action may be insufficient to avoid an accident. It is obvious that a motor vehicle poses a greater danger of harm to a bicyclist than vice versa. Accordingly, while the duty of using reasonable care falls alike on a motorist and a bicyclist, due to the inherent differences in the two vehicles, more care is required from the motorist to fully discharge the duty than from the bicyclist.44 Simply stated, the physical advantages that the motor vehicle has over the bicycle make it more dangerous to the bicyclist than vice versa.45
Under Article 2180 of the Civil Code, the obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own acts or omissions, but also for those persons for whom one is responsible. Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees, but the employers’ responsibility shall cease upon proof that they observed all the diligence of a good father of the family in the selection and supervision of their employees.
When an injury is caused by the negligence of an employee, a legal presumption instantly arises that the employer was negligent. This presumption may be rebutted only by a clear showing on the part of the employer that he exercised the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of his employee. If the employer successfully overcomes the legal presumption of negligence, he is relieved of liability. In other words, the burden of proof is on the employer.46
The trial court’s finding that Completo failed to exercise reasonable care to avoid collision with Albayda at the intersection of 11th and 8th Streets of VAB gives rise to liability on the part of Completo, as driver, and his employer Abiad. The responsibility of two or more persons who are liable for quasi-delict is solidary.47 The civil liability of the employer for the negligent acts of his employee is also primary and direct, owing to his own negligence in selecting and supervising his employee.48 The civil liability of the employer attaches even if the employer is not inside the vehicle at the time of the collision.49
In the selection of prospective employees, employers are required to examine them as to their qualifications, experience, and service records. On the other hand, with respect to the supervision of employees, employers should formulate standard operating procedures, monitor their implementation, and impose disciplinary measures for breaches thereof. To establish these factors in a trial involving the issue of vicarious liability, employers must submit concrete proof, including documentary evidence.50
Abiad testified that before he hired Completo, he required the latter to show his bio-data, NBI clearance, and driver’s license. Abiad likewise stressed that Completo was never involved in a vehicular accident prior to the instant case, and that, as operator of the taxicab, he would wake up early to personally check the condition of the vehicle before it is used.
The protestation of Abiad to escape liability is short of the diligence required under the law. Abiad’s evidence consisted entirely of testimonial evidence, and the unsubstantiated and self-serving testimony of Abiad was insufficient to overcome the legal presumption that he was negligent in the selection and supervision of his driver.
II. On Damages
The CA rightfully deleted the award of actual damages by the RTC because Albayda failed to present documentary evidence to establish with certainty the amount that he incurred during his hospitalization and treatment for the injuries he suffered. In the absence of stipulation, actual damages are awarded only for such pecuniary loss suffered that was duly proved.51
While the amount of actual damages was not duly established with certainty, the Court recognizes the fact that, indeed, Albayda incurred a considerable amount for the necessary and reasonable medical expenses, loss of salary and wages, loss of capacity to earn increased wages, cost of occupational therapy, and harm from conditions caused by prolonged immobilization. Temperate damages, more than nominal but less than compensatory damages, may be recovered when the court finds that some pecuniary loss has been suffered but its amount cannot, from the nature of the case, be proved with certainty.52 Temperate damages must be reasonable under the circumstances.53 Thus, the Court finds the award of One Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱100,000.00) as temperate damages reasonable under the circumstances.
Doubtless, Albayda suffered immeasurable pain because of the incident caused by petitioners’ negligence. The CA explained:
The court vicariously feels the pain the plaintiff [Albayda] suffered a number of times. After he was bumped by defendants’ cab, he cried in pain. When the doctors bore holes into his left knee, he cried in pain. When he was tractioned, when he was subjected to an operation after operation he suffered pain. When he took the witness stand to testify, he walked with crutches, his left knee in bandage, stiff and unfuctional. Pain was written [on] his face. He does deserve moral damages.54
Moral damages are awarded in quasi-delicts causing physical injuries. The permanent deformity and the scar left by the wounds suffered by Albayba will forever be a reminder of the pain and suffering that he had endured and continues to endure because of petitioners’ negligence. Thus, the award of moral damages in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱500,000.00) is proper.
Finally, an interest rate of six percent (6%) per annum is due on the amount of ₱100,000.00, as temperate damages, and ₱500,000.00, as moral damages, which we have awarded. The 6% per annum interest rate on the temperate and moral damages shall commence to run from the date of the promulgation of this Decision. Upon finality of the Decision, an interest rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum shall be imposed on the amount of the temperate and moral damages until full payment thereof.55
The award of attorney’s fees is hereby deleted for failure to prove that petitioners acted in bad faith in refusing to satisfy respondent’s just and valid claim.
WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Decision dated January 2, 2006 and the Resolution dated March 30, 2006 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 68405 are hereby AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION, viz.:
(1) The estate of the late Redentor Completo and Elpidio Abiad are solidarily liable to pay One Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱100,000.00), as temperate damages, and Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (₱500,000.00), as moral damages;
(2) The temperate and moral damages hereby awarded shall earn legal interest at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from the date of the promulgation of this Decision. Upon finality of this Decision, an interest rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum shall be imposed on the amount of the temperate and moral damages until full payment thereof.
Costs against petitioners.
ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
|DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
|ROBERTO A. ABAD
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
A T T E S T A T I O N
I attest that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Chairperson, Second Division
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution and the Division Chairperson's Attestation, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court’s Division.
RENATO C. CORONA
1 Penned by Associate Justice Celia C. Librea-Leagogo, with Associate Justices Renato C. Dacudao and Lucas P. Bersamin (now a member of this Court), concurring; rollo, pp. 50-91.
2 Id. at 93-94.
3 Completo died pending appeal of the instant case to this Court.
4 Rollo, p. 51.
5 Id. 51-52.
6 Id. at 117-118.
7 Id. at 52.
8 Id. at 52-53.
9 Id. at 53.
10 Id. at 53-54.
11 Id. at 54.
12 Id. at 54-55.
13 Id. at 55.
17 Id. at 55-56.
18 Traction is the use of a pulling force to treat muscle and skeleton disorders. Traction is usually applied to the arms and legs, the neck, the backbone, or the pelvis. It is used to treat fractures, dislocations, and long-duration muscle spasms, and to prevent or correct deformities. Traction can either be short-term, as at an accident scene, or long-term, when it is used in a hospital setting. <http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/traction> (visited June 8, 2010.)
19 Rollo, pp. 56-57.
20 Bone grafting or bone repair of the malunion.
21 Rollo, p. 57.
22 Id. at 57-58.
23 Id. at 58.
27 Id. at 58-59.
28 Id. at 59.
29 Id. at 61.
33 Id. at 62.
35 Penned by Judge Henrick F. Gingoyon, RTC, Branch 117, Pasay City; id. at 175-188.
36 Id. at 188.
37 Supra note 1.
38 Id. at 87-88.
39 Rollo, p. 325.
40 Spouses Patricio and Myrna Bernales vs. Heirs of Julian Sambaan, G.R. No. 163271, January 15, 2010; Poliand Industrial Limited v. National Development Company, G.R. Nos. 143866 and 143877, August 22, 2005, 467 SCRA 500, 543.
41 Empire East Land Holdings, Inc. v. Capitol Industrial Construction Groups, Inc., G.R. No. 168074, September 26, 2008, 566 SCRA 473; Bulay-og v. Bacalso, G.R. No. 148795, July 17, 2006, 495 SCRA 308.
42 11 AMJUR POF 3d 395.
46 Skyi v. Begasa, 460 Phil. 381 (2003); Delsan Transport Lines, Inc. v. C & A Construction, Inc., 459 Phil. 156 (2003).
47 CIVIL CODE, Art. 2194.
48 Cerezo v. Tuazon, 469 Phil. 1020 (2004).
49 Sps. Hernandez v. Sps. Dolor, 479 Phil. 593 (2004).
50 Skyi v. Begasa, supra note 46.
51 CIVIL CODE, Art. 2199.
52 CIVIL CODE, Art. 2224.
53 CIVIL CODE, Art. 2225.
54 Rollo, p. 65.
55 Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. CA, G.R. No. 97412, July 12, 1994, 234 SCRA 78.
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