Torts law exam predictions

The following are pointers to review in your final examination on the law on torts and damages. There is an enormous chance of them being asked due to their importance and the emphasis they receive in textbooks and Supreme Court decisions.

Tort law, is a suite where the purpose of a legal action is to obtain a private civil remedy such as damages, may be compared to criminal law, which deals with criminal wrongs that are punishable by the state. Tort law may also be contrasted with contract law, which also provides a civil remedy after breach of duty; but whereas the contractual obligation is one chosen by the parties, the obligation in both tort and crime is imposed by the state. In both contract and tort, successful claimants must show that they have suffered foreseeable loss or harm as a direct result of the breach of duty.

[1] 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 pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict. (Article 2176)

[2] The obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one's own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible. (Article 2180)

[3] The father and, in case of his death or incapacity, the mother, are responsible for the damages caused by the minor children who live in their company. (Article 2180)

[4] Guardians are liable for damages caused by the minors or incapacitated persons who are under their authority and live in their company. (Article 2180)

[5] The owners and managers of an establishment or enterprise are likewise responsible for damages caused by their employees in the service of the branches in which the latter are employed or on the occasion of their functions. (Article 2180)

[6] Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks, even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry. (Article 2180)

[7] The State is responsible in like manner when it acts through a special agent; but not when the damage has been caused by the official to whom the task done properly pertains, in which case what is provided in Article 2176 shall be applicable. (Article 2180)

[8] Teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades shall be liable for damages caused by their pupils and students or apprentices, so long as they remain in their custody. (Article 2180)

[9] The responsibility treated of in Article 2180 shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.

[10] Article 2176, where it refers to "fault or negligencia covers not only acts "not punishable by law" but also acts criminal in character, whether intentional and voluntary or negligent. Consequently, a separate civil action lies against the offender in a criminal act, whether or not he is criminally prosecuted and found guilty or acquitted, provided that the offended party is not allowed, if he is actually charged also criminally, to recover damages on both scores, and would be entitled in such eventuality only to the bigger award of the two, assuming the awards made in the two cases vary. (G.R. No. L-24803. May 26, 1977)

[11] A contract to transport passengers is quite different in kind and degree from any other contractual relation. And this, because of the relation which an air-carrier sustains with the public. Its business is mainly with the travelling public. It invites people to avail of the comforts and advantages it offers. The contract of air carriage, therefore, generates a relation attended with a public duty. Neglect or malfeasance of the carrier's employees, naturally, could give ground for an action for damages. 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. (G.R. No. L-21438. Sep. 28, 1966)

[12] The legal doctrine of informed consent imposes tort liability for failure to disclose the risks, benefits, and alternatives of a proposed medical intervention.

[13] From a purely ethical norm, informed consent evolved into a general principle of law that a physician has a duty to disclose what a reasonably prudent physician in the medical community in the exercise of reasonable care would disclose to his patient as to whatever grave risks of injury might be incurred from a proposed course of treatment, so that a patient, exercising ordinary care for his own welfare, and faced with a choice of undergoing the proposed treatment, or alternative treatment, or none at all, may intelligently exercise his judgment by reasonably balancing the probable risks against the probable benefits. (G.R. No. 165279. Jun 07, 2011)

[14] Due diligence in selection of employees is not satisfied by finding that the applicant possessed a professional driver’s license. The employer should also examine the applicant for his qualifications, experience and record of service. Due diligence in supervision, on the other hand, requires the formulation of rules and regulations for the guidance of employees and the issuance of proper instructions as well as actual implementation and monitoring of consistent compliance with the rules. (G.R. No. 111127. Jul 26, 1996)

[15] 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 2179)

[16] Parents and other persons exercising parental authority shall be civilly liable for the injuries and damages caused by the acts or omissions of their unemancipated children living in their company and under their parental authority subject to the appropriate defenses provided by law. (Article 221 of the Family Code)

[17] It is well to repeat that under the civil law an employer is only liable for the negligence of his employees in the discharge of their respective duties. The defense of independent contractor would be a valid one in the Philippines just as it would be in the United States. Here Ora was a contractor, but it does not necessarily follow that he was an independent contractor. The reason for this distinction is that the employer retained the power of directing and controlling the work. The chauffeur and the two persons on the truck were the employees of Ora, the contractor, but Ora, the contractor, was an employee of Norton & Harrison Co., charged with the duty of directing the loading and transportation of the lumber. And it was the negligence in loading the lumber and the use of minors on the truck which caused the death of the unfortunate boy. On the facts and the law, Ora was not an independent contractor, but was the servant of the defendant, and for his negligence defendant was responsible. (G.R. No. L-32774. October 14, 1930)

[18] In Palisoc vs. Brillantes, decided on October 4, 1971, a 16-year old student was killed by a classmate with fist blows in the laboratory of the Manila Technical Institute. Although the wrongdoer — who was already of age — was not boarding in the school, the head thereof and the teacher in charge were held solidarily liable with him. The Supreme Court said that the phrase used in Article 2180 — "so long as (the students) remain in their custody" — means the protective and supervisory custody that the school and its heads and teachers exercise over the pupils and students for as long as they are at attendance in the school, including recess time. There is nothing in the law that requires that for such liability to attach, the pupil or student who commits the tortious act must live and board in the school, as erroneously held by the lower court, and the dicta in Mercado (as well as in Exconde) on which it relied, must now be deemed to have been set aside by the present decision. (Cited in G.R. No. L-47745 April 15, 1988)

[19] There is no contribution between joint tortfeasors whose liability is solidary since both of them are liable for the total damage. Where the concurrent or successive negligent acts or omissions of two or more persons, although acting independently, are in combination the direct and proximate cause of a single injury to a third person, it is impossible to determine in what proportion each contributed to the injury and either of them is responsible for the whole injury. Where their concurring negligence resulted in injury or damage to a third party, they become joint tortfeasors and are solidarily liable for the resulting damage under Article 2194 of the Civil Code. (G.R. No. 179446. January 10, 2011)

[20] 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. In G.R. No. 170865 (Apr 25, 2012. 686 Phil. 760), 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.[21] In G.R. No. L-2075 (Nov 29, 1949. 85 Phil. 67), the animal was in the custody aad under the control of the caretaker, who was paid for his work as such. Obviously, it was the caretaker's business to try to prevent the animal from causing injury or damage to anyone, including himself. And being injured by the animal under those circumstances, waa one of the risks of the occupation which he had voluntarily assumed and for which he must take the consequences. The possessor of an animal, or the one who uses the same, is liable for any damages it may cause, even if such animal should escape from him or stray away.

[22] If the act from which civil liability might arise does not exist, there can be no award of damages against the accused. (G.R. No. 78777. Sep 2, 1992)

[23] Every person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means, acquires or comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground, shall return the same to him. (Article 22)

[23] In People v. Bayotas, the Supreme Court summarized the rules with respect to recovery of civil liability arising from crime and other sources, to wit:

[1] Death of the accused pending appeal of his conviction extinguishes his criminal liability as well as the civil liability based solely thereon.

[2] Corollarily, the claim for civil liability survives notwithstanding the death of accused, if the same may also be predicated on a source of obligation other than delict. Article 1157 of the Civil Code enumerates these other sources of obligation from which the civil liability may arise as a result of the same act or omission: law; contracts; quasi-contracts; xxx xxx xxx; and quasi-delicts.

[c] Where the civil liability survives, as explained in Number 2 above, an action for recovery therefor may be pursued but only by way of filing a separate civil action and subject to Section 1, Rule III of the 1984 Rules on Criminal Procedures as amended. This separate civil action may be enforced either against the executor/administrator or the estate of the accused, depending on the source of obligation upon which the same is based as explained above.

[d] Finally, the private offended party need not fear a forfeiture of his right to file this separate civil action by prescription, in cases where during the prosecution of the criminal action and prior to its extinction, the private-offended party instituted together therewith the civil action. In such case, the statute of limitations on the civil liability is deemed interrupted during the pendency of the criminal case, conformably with provisions of Article 1155 of the Civil Code, that should thereby avoid any apprehension on a possible privation of right by prescription. (G.R. No. 94713. Nov 23, 1995)

[24] A prejudicial question is a question which is based on a fact distinct and separate from the crime but so intimately connected with it that its resolution is determinative of the guilt or innocence of the accused. To justify suspension of the criminal action, it must appear not only that the civil case involves facts intimately related to those upon which the criminal prosecution is based but also that the decision of the issue or issues raised in the civil case would be decisive of the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The two (2) essential elements of a prejudicial questions are: (a) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (b) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed. (G.R. No. 112381. Mar 20, 1995)

[25] The law specially provides the procedure to be followed in case of demolition; in the second, there is none stated, although this Court has had occasion to rule that houses erected without governmental authority on public streets, river bed, and water ways are nuisance per se and could be removed by the government, under the procedure outlined in the law governing the case. (G.R. No. L-19326. Jul 31, 1964)

[26] Indemnification for damages shall comprehend not only the value of the loss suffered, but also that of the profits which the obligee failed to obtain. (Article 2200)

[27] The award of P50,000.00 as moral damages is maintained. Moral damages may be additionally awarded to the heirs of the victim in a criminal proceeding without the need or proof of the basis thereof; the fact that they suffered the trauma of mental, physical and psychological sufferings which constitutes the bases for moral damage under the Civil Code are too obvious to still require the recital thereof at the trial. Moreover, the father of the victim testified as to the mental anguish suffered from the lost of his child. (G.R. No. 124300. Mar 25, 1999)

[28] To support an action for malicious prosecution under [the] law the plaintiff must prove, in the first place, the fact of the prosecution and the fact that the defendant was himself the prosecutor, or that he instigated its commencement, and that it finally terminated in his acquittal; that, in bringing it, the prosecutor had acted without probable cause, and that he was actuated by legal malice, i. e., by improper or sinister motives. These three elements must concur; and there is no distinction between actions for criminal prosecutions and civil suits. Both classes require substantially the same essentials. Malice is essential to the maintenance of an action for malicious prosecution and not merely to the recovery of exemplary damages. But malice alone does not make one liable for malicious prosecution, where probable cause is shown, even where it appears that the suit was brought for the mere purpose of vexing, harrassing and injuring his adversary. In other words, malice and want of probable cause must both exist in order to justify the action. (G.R. No. 10402. Nov 30, 1915)

[29] A person claiming damages for the negligence of another has the burden of proving the existence of fault or negligence causative of his injury or loss. The facts constitutive of negligence must be affirmatively established by competent evidence, not merely by presumptions and conclusions without basis in fact.

What is visual to the eye, though, is not always reflective of the real cause behind. For instance, one who hears a gunshot and then sees a wounded person, cannot always definitely conclude that a third person shot the victim. It could have been self-inflicted or caused accidentally by a stray bullet. The relationship of cause and effect must be clearly shown. (G.R. No. 126389. Jul 10, 1998)

[30] Exemplary or corrective damages are imposed, by way of example or correction for the public good, in addition to the moral, temperate, liquidated or compensatory damages. In contracts and quasi-contracts, the court may award exemplary damages if the defendant acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive, or malevolent manner. (Article 2229 and Article 2232)

The point is that as a business affected with public interest and because of the nature of its functions, the bank is under obligation to treat the accounts of its depositors with meticulous care, always having in mind the fiduciary nature of their relationship. In the case at bar, it is obvious that the respondent bank was remiss in that duty and violated that relationship. What is especially deplorable is that, having been informed of its error not crediting the deposit in question to the petitioner, the respondent bank did not immediately correct it but did so only one week later or twenty-three days after the deposit was made. It bears repeating that the record does not contain any satisfactory explanation of why the error was made in the first place and why it was not corrected immediately after its discovery. Such ineptness comes under the concept of the wanton manner contemplated in the Civil Code that calls for the imposition of exemplary damages. (G.R. NO. 88013. Mar 19, 1990)