Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vehicular accident; negligence; proximate cause; damages.

LAMBERT S. RAMOS vs. C.O.L. REALTY CORPORATION, G.R. No. 184905, August 28, 2009

X x x.

Articles 2179 and 2185 of the Civil Code on quasi-delicts apply in this case, viz:

Article 2179.   When the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. But if his 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 2185.   Unless there is proof to the contrary, it is presumed that a person driving a motor vehicle has been negligent if at the time of the mishap, he was violating any traffic regulation.

If the master is injured by the negligence of a third person and by the concurring contributory negligence of his own servant or agent, the latter’s negligence is imputed to his superior and will defeat the superior’s action against the third person, assuming of course that the contributory negligence was the proximate cause of the injury of which complaint is made.[1]

Applying the foregoing principles of law to the instant case, Aquilino’s act of crossing Katipunan Avenue via Rajah Matanda constitutes negligence because it was prohibited by law.  Moreover, it was the proximate cause of the accident, and thus precludes any recovery for any damages suffered by respondent from the accident.

Proximate cause is defined as that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.  And more comprehensively, the proximate legal cause is that acting first and producing the injury, either immediately or by setting other events in motion, all constituting a natural and continuous chain of events, each having a close causal connection with its immediate predecessor, the final event in the chain immediately effecting the injury as a natural and probable result of the cause which first acted, under such circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should, as an ordinary prudent and intelligent person, have reasonable ground to expect at the moment of his act or default that an injury to some person might probably result therefrom.[2]

If Aquilino heeded the MMDA prohibition against crossing Katipunan Avenue from Rajah Matanda, the accident would not have happened.  This specific untoward event is exactly what the MMDA prohibition was intended for.  Thus, a prudent and intelligent person who resides within the vicinity where the accident occurred, Aquilino had reasonable ground to expect that the accident would be a natural and probable result if he crossed Katipunan Avenue since such crossing is considered dangerous on account of the busy nature of the thoroughfare and the ongoing construction of the Katipunan-Boni Avenue underpass.  It was manifest error for the Court of Appeals to have overlooked the principle embodied in Article 2179 of the Civil Code, that when the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages.

Hence, we find it unnecessary to delve into the issue of Rodel’s contributory negligence, since it cannot overcome or defeat Aquilino’s recklessness which is the immediate and proximate cause of the accident. Rodel’s contributory negligence has relevance only in the event that Ramos seeks to recover from respondent whatever damages or injuries he may have suffered as a result; it will have the effect of mitigating the award of damages in his favor. In other words, an assertion of contributory negligence in this case would benefit only the petitioner; it could not eliminate respondent’s liability for Aquilino’s negligence which is the proximate result of the accident.

X x x.

[1] Am. Jur. 2d, Volume 58, Negligence, Section 464; cited in Ford Philippines, Inc. v. Citibank, N.A., G.R. No. 128604, January 29, 2001, 350 SCRA 446.
[2] McKee v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. 68102, July 16, 1992, 211 SCRA 517.