SC: Bus, airline, etc. workers must be kind, respectful to passengers; if not, 'breach of contract'

Common carriers are persons, corporations, firms or associations engaged in the business of carrying or transporting passengers or goods or both, by land, water, or air, for compensation, offering their services to the public. Common carriers, from the nature of their business and for reasons of public policy, are bound to observe extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods and for the safety of the passengers transported by them, according to all the circumstances of each case. (Civil Code of the Philippines)

In short, bus companies, tricycles for hire, train companies, airlines and vessels for hire are common carriers. Passengers do not contract with them merely for transportation but also for decent treatment.

In one case (2017), the Supreme Court of the Philpppines ruled that, in an action based on a breach of contract of carriage, the aggrieved party does not have to prove that the common carrier was at fault or was negligent. All that he has to prove is the existence of the contract and the fact of its non-performance by the carrier. As the aggrieved party, the [passengers] only had to prove the existence of the contract and the fact of its non-performance by [the common carrier], as carrier, in order to be awarded compensatory and actual damages.

Therefore, having proven the existence of a contract of carriage between [the common carrier] and the [passengers], and the fact of non-performance by [the common carrier] of its obligation as a common carrier, it is clear that [the common carrier] breached its contract of carriage with the [passengers]. Thus, [the common carrier] opened itself to claims for compensatory, actual, moral and exemplary damages, attorney's fees and costs of suit.

Moreover, Article 1733 of the New Civil Code provides that common carriers, from the nature of their business and for reasons of public policy, are bound to observe extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods and for the safety of the passengers transported by them, according to all the circumstances of each case. Also, Article 1755 of the same Code states that a common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with due regard for all the circumstances. xxx

Passengers do not contract merely for transportation. They have a right to be treated by the carrier's employees with kindness, respect, courtesy and due consideration. They are entitled to be protected against personal misconduct, injurious language, indignities and abuses from such employees. So it is, that any rule or discourteous conduct on the part of employees towards a passenger gives the latter an action for damages against the carrier.

In requiring compliance with the standard of extraordinary diligence, a standard which is, in fact, that of the highest possible degree of diligence, from common carriers and in creating a presumption of negligence against them, the law seeks to compel them to control their employees, to tame their reckless instincts and to force them to take adequate care of human beings and their property. (G.R. No. 212038. February 8, 2017)

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