Thursday, May 10, 2012

Contributory negligence in bank transactions - G.R. No. 170865

G.R. No. 170865

"x x x.

The spouses Cheah are guilty of contributory negligence and are bound to share the loss with the bank

“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 to which he is required to conform for his own protection.”[44]

The CA found Ofelia’s credulousness blameworthy.  We agree.  Indeed, Ofelia failed to observe caution in giving her full trust in accommodating a complete stranger and this led her and her husband to be swindled.  Considering that Filipina was not personally known to her and the amount of the foreign check to be encashed was $300,000.00, a higher degree of care is expected of Ofelia which she, however, failed to exercise under the circumstances. Another circumstance which should have goaded Ofelia to be more circumspect in her dealings was when a bank officer called her up to inform that the Bank of America check has already been cleared way earlier than the 15-day clearing period.  The fact that the check was cleared after only eight banking days from the time it was deposited or contrary to what Garin told her that clearing takes 15 days should have already put Ofelia on guard.  She should have first verified the regularity of such hasty clearance considering that if something goes wrong with the transaction, it is she and her husband who would be put at risk and not the accommodated party.  However, Ofelia chose to ignore the same and instead actively participated in immediately withdrawing the proceeds of the check.  Thus, we are one with the CA in ruling that Ofelia’s prior consultation with PNB officers is not enough to totally absolve her of any liability. In the first place, she should have shunned any participation in that palpably shady transaction.     

In any case, the complaint against the spouses Cheah could not be dismissed.  As PNB’s client, Ofelia was the one who dealt with PNB and negotiated the check such that its value was credited in her and her husband’s account.  Being the ones in privity with PNB, the spouses Cheah are therefore the persons who should return to PNB the money released to them. 

All told, the Court concurs with the findings of the CA that PNB and the spouses Cheah are equally negligent and should therefore equally suffer the loss.  The two must both bear the consequences of their mistakes.
 x x x."