Case Digest: Makati Shangri-La vs. Harper

G.R. No. 189998 : August 29, 2012




In the first week of November 1999, Christian Harper (Harper) came to Manila on a business trip. He checked in at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel and was billeted at Room 1428. He was due to check out on November 6, 1999. In the early morning of that date, however, he was murdered inside his hotel room by still unidentified malefactors.

Thus, the heirs of Christian Harper sued the hotel for damages. Col. Rodrigo de Guzman, the hotels Security Manager, testified that the management practice prior to the murder of Harper had been to deploy only one security or roving guard for every three or four floors of the building; that such ratio had not been enough considering the L-shape configuration of the hotel that rendered the hallways not visible from one or the other end; and that he had recommended to management to post a guard for each floor, but his recommendation had been disapproved because the hotel "was not doing well" at that particular time.

And to prove heirship of the plaintiffs-appellees, they presented several documents which were all kept in Norway. The documents had been authenticated by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also bore the official seal of the Ministry and signature of one, Tanja Sorlie. The documents were also accompanied by an Authentication by the Consul, Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Stockholm, Sweden to the effect that, Tanja Sorlie was duly authorized to legalize official documents for the Ministry.

The RTC ruled in favor of Christian Harpers heirs and found the hotel negligent. On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC.
I. Whether or not the heirs substantially complied with the rules on the authentication and proof of documents set by Section 24 and Section 25 of Rule 132 of the Rules of Court? 
II. Whether or not Makati Shangri-La Hotel is liable to pay damages?

FIRST ISSUE: The requirements for authentication of documents establishing respondents legal relationship with the victim as his heirs were complied with.


Although Exhibit Q, Exhibit Q-1, Exhibit R and Exhibit R-1 were not attested by the officer having the legal custody of the record or by his deputy in the manner required in Section 25 of Rule 132, and said documents did not comply with the requirement under Section 24 of Rule 132 to the effect that if the record was not kept in the Philippines a certificate of the person having custody must accompany the copy of the document that was duly attested stating that such person had custody of the documents, the deviation was not enough reason to reject the utility of the documents for the purposes they were intended to serve. The official participation in the authentication process of Tanja Sorlie of the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway and the attachment of the official seal of that office on each authentication indicated that Exhibit Q, Exhibit R, Exhibit Q-1 and Exhibit R-1 were documents of a public nature in Norway, not merely private documents.

That rules of procedure may be mandatory in form and application does not forbid a showing of substantial compliance under justifiable circumstances, because substantial compliance does not equate to a disregard of basic rules. For sure, substantial compliance and strict adherence are not always incompatible and do not always clash in discord.

SECOND ISSUE: Petitioner was liable due to its own negligence.


The CA resolved petitioners arguments thuswise: "negligence is defined as the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or the doing of something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. It is a relative or comparative, not an absolute, term and its application depends upon the situation of the parties and the degree of care and vigilance which the circumstances reasonably require. In determining whether or not there is negligence on the part of the parties in a given situation, jurisprudence has laid down the following test:Did defendant, in doing the alleged negligent act, use that reasonable care and caution which an ordinarily prudent person would have used in the same situation? If not, the person is guilty of negligence. The law, in effect, adopts the standard supposed to be supplied by the imaginary conduct of the discreet pater familias of the Roman law. Liability on the part of the defendant is based upon the fact that he was in a better situation than the injured person to foresee and prevent the happening of the injurious occurrence. Moreover, in applying the premises liability rule in the instant case as it is applied in some jurisdiction in the United States, it is enough that guests are injured while inside the hotel premises to make the hotelkeeper liable."

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. More comprehensively, proximate cause is that cause 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 natural and probable result of the cause which first acted, under such circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should, as an ordinarily 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. To reiterate, defendant-appellant is engaged in a business imbued with public interest, ergo, it is bound to provide adequate security to its guests.