Ship company PRESUMED negligent for lost, damaged goods

SECOND DIVISION [G.R. No. 242697, January 16, 2019] BESTA SHIPPING LINES, INC. V. PRUDENTIAL GUARANTEE AND ASSURANCE, INC. AND GENERAL MILLING CORPORATION.

After a judicious study of the case, the Court resolves to DENY the instant petition[1] and AFFIRM the February 27, 2018 Decision[2] and the October 17, 2018 Resolution[3] of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. CV No. 107938 for failure of petitioner Besta Shipping Lines, Inc. (Besta) to sufficiently show that the CA committed any reversible error in affirming the April 7, 2016 Decision[4] of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City, Branch 66 that held Besta liable to respondent Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. (Prudential) as subrogee, for the cost of the insured damaged cargo of respondent General Milling Corporation (GMC).

As correctly ruled by the CA, Besta is liable to Prudential for the amount it paid to GMC for the value of the insured damaged cargo, considering that: (a) Prudential sufficiently established all the elements of subrogation.[5] The "Charter Agreement"[6] — which purportedly absolved Besta from any subrogatory claims — could not be given weight since it was, among others, a mere unnotarized photocopy of a facsimile transmission[7] in violation of the Best Evidence Rule;[8] (b) Prudential's claim has not yet prescribed, considering that copy of the alleged Clause 4[9] of the Bill of Lading[10] was not formally offered in evidence[11] and, in any case, GMC's provisional and formal claims, filed with Besta on April 17 and May 5, 2006, respectively, constituted as substantial compliance with Clause 4's requirements;[12] and (c) Besta failed to sufficiently prove that it observed extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the cargo consigned to it by GMC from the start of the voyage up to the ship's return to Lapu-Lapu City, including the actions taken by the ship's captain during the incident.[13] As such, the legal presumption of fault or negligence on its part stands making it liable for the value of the damaged cargo. It is settled that in case of loss or deterioration of goods in transit, the common carrier is presumed under the law to have been at fault or negligent.[14] To overcome the presumption of negligence, the common carrier must establish by adequate proof that it exercised extraordinary diligence over the goods, failing in which, it shall be held responsible for the loss or deterioration,[15] as in this case. Finally, the issues raised in this petition are factual in nature, which are not proper for a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45[16] of the Rules of Court, where only questions of law are allowed.[17]

SO ORDERED. (HERNANDO, J ., designated Additional Member per Special Order Nos. 2629 and 2630 dated December 18, 2018.)

[1] Rollo, pp. 12-35.[2] Id. at 39-71. Penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio M. Santos with Associate Justices Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. and Socorro B. Inting, concurring.

[3] Id. at 73-75. Penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio M. Santos with Associate Justices Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. and Ramon A. Cruz, concurring.

[4] Id. at 206-213. Penned by Presiding Judge Joselito C. Villarosa.

[5] See id. at 56-57.

[6] Titled as General Charter, rollo, p. 76. See also rollo, pp. 43-44.

[7] See id. at 59.

[8] See Section 3, Rule 130 of the Rules of Court.

[9] Clause 4 of the Bill of Lading provides:
4. x x x Claims for nondelivery of shipment must be presented in the carrier within thirty days from the date of accrual. Suits based upon claims arising from shortage, damage, or nondelivery of shipment shall be instituted within sixty days from the date of the accrual of the right of action. Failure to make claims, or to institute judicial proceedings as herein provided shall constitute a waiver of the claim or right of action.
[10] Rollo, p. 77.

[11] See id. at 68-69.

[12] See id. at 70.

[13] See id. at 55-56.

[14] See Article 1735 of the CIVIL CODE OF THE PHILIPPINES. See also Loadmasters Customs Services, Inc. v. Glodel Brokerage Corporation, 654 Phil. 67, 77 (2011). See further Central Shipping Company, Inc. v. Insurance Company of North America, 481 Phil. 868, 876 (2004).

[15] See NedlloydLijnen B.V. Rotterdam v. Glow Laks Enterprises, Ltd., 141 Phil. 170, 185 (2014). See also Belgian Overseas Chartering and Shipping N. V. v. Philippine First Insurance Co., Inc., 432 Phil. 567,580(2002).

[16] Section 1, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court reads:
Section 1. Filing of petition with Supreme Court. — x x x The petition may include an application for a writ of preliminary injunction or other provisional remedies and shall raise only questions of law, which must be distinctly set forth[.] (Emphasis supplied)
[17] See Tatel v. JLFP Investigation Security Agency, Inc., 755 Phil. 171,181 (2015).

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