Employer's vicarious liability; traffic negligence; subrogation - G.R. No. 193629

G.R. No. 193629
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The Court’s Ruling

The petition has no merit. We see no reason to overturn the findings of the lower courts. We affirm the ruling of the appellate court.

RCJ’s Liability

RCJ argues that its defense of extraordinary diligence in the selection and supervision of its employees is a mere alternative defense. RCJ’s initial claim was that Standard’s complaint failed to state a cause of action against RCJ.

Standard may hold RCJ liable for two reasons, both of which rely upon facts uncontroverted by RCJ. One, RCJ is the registered owner of the bus driven by Mangoba. Two, RCJ is Mangoba’s employer.

Standard’s allegation in its amended complaint that RCJ is the registered owner of the passenger bus with plate number NYG 363 was sufficient to state a cause of action against RCJ. The registered owner of a vehicle should be primarily responsible to the public for injuries caused while the vehicle is in use.16 The main aim of motor vehicle registration is to identify the owner so that if any accident happens, or that any damage or injury is caused by the vehicle on the public highways, responsibility therefor can be fixed on a definite individual, the registered owner.17

Moreover, in its efforts to extricate itself from liability, RCJ proffered the defense of the exercise of the diligence of a good father of a family. The MeTC characterized RCJ’s defense against negligence in this manner:

To repel the idea of negligence, defendant [RCJ] bus company’s operations manager at the Laoag City Terminal was presented on the witness stand on January 5, 2000 in regard to the company’s seminars and dialogues with respect to its employees, and the absence of any record of a vehicular accident involving the co-defendant driver [Mangoba] (TSN, January 5, 2000, pp. 2-17; TSN, February 16, 2000, pp. 2-9). As the last witness of defendant [RCJ] bus company, Noel Oalog, bus conductor who was allegedly seated to the right side of the bus driver during the incident, was presented on March 22, 2000 (TSN, March 22, 2000, page 2). He confirmed on direct examination and cross examination that it was defendant’s bus, then running at 60-75 [kph] and at a distance of 10 meters, which bumped a Mitsubishi Lancer without a tail light. According to him, the incident occurred when the driver of the Toyota Corolla, which was ahead of the Lancer, stepped on the brakes due to the pile of gravel and sand in sight (TSN, Vide at pp. 3-11). Subsequent to the proffer of exhibits (TSN, Vide, at page 14), and in default of any rebuttal, the parties were directed to file the Memoranda within thirty days from March 23, 2000.18

RCJ, by presenting witnesses to testify on its exercise of diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of its bus drivers, admitted that Mangoba is its employee. Article 218019 of the Civil Code, in relation to Article 2176,20 makes the employer vicariously liable for the acts of its employees. When the employee causes damage due to his own negligence while performing his own duties, there arises the juris tantum presumption that the employer is negligent, rebuttable only by proof of observance of the diligence of a good father of a family. For failure to rebut such legal presumption of negligence in the selection and supervision of employees, the employer is likewise responsible for damages, the basis of the liability being the relationship of pater familias or on the employer’s own negligence.21

Mangoba, per testimony of his conductor, was ten meters away from the Mitsubishi Lancer before the collision and was driving 60 to 75 kilometers per hour when the speed limit was 50 kilometers per hour.22 The presumption under Article 218523 of the Civil Code was thus proven true: Mangoba, as driver of the bus which collided with the Mitsubishi Lancer, was negligent since he violated a traffic regulation at the time of the mishap. We see no reason to depart from the findings of the MeTC, RTC and appellate court that Mangoba was negligent. The appellate court stated:

To be sure, had not the passenger bus been speeding while traversing the downward sloping road, it would not have hit and bumped the Mitsubishi Lancer in front of it, causing the latter vehicle to move forward and hit and bump, in turn, the Toyota Corolla. Had the bus been moving at a reasonable speed, it could have avoided hitting and bumping the Mitsubishi Lancer upon spotting the same, taking into account that the distance between the two vehicles was ten (10) meters. As fittingly opined by the MeTC, the driver of the passenger bus, being the rear vehicle, had full control of the situation as he was in a position to observe the vehicle in front of him. Had he observed the diligence required under the circumstances, the accident would not have occurred.24


In the present case, it cannot be denied that the Mitsubishi Lancer sustained damages. Moreover, it cannot also be denied that Standard paid Rodelene Valentino P162,151.22 for the repair of the Mitsubishi Lancer pursuant to a Release of Claim and Subrogation Receipt. Neither RCJ nor Mangoba cross-examined Standard’s claims evaluator when he testified on his duties, the insurance contract between Rodelene Valentino and Standard, Standard’s payment of insurance proceeds, and RCJ and Mangoba’s refusal to pay despite demands. After being lackadaisical during trial, RCJ cannot escape liability now. Standard’s right of subrogation accrues simply upon its payment of the insurance claim.25

Article 2207 of the Civil Code reads:

Art. 2207. If the plaintiff’s property has been insured and he has received indemnity from the insurance company for the injury or loss arising out of the wrong or breach of contract complained of, the insurance company shall be subrogated to the rights of the insured against the wrongdoer or the person who has violated the contract. If the amount paid by the insurance company does not fully cover the injury or loss, the aggrieved party shall be entitled to recover the deficiency from the person causing the loss or injury.

Subrogation is the substitution of one person by another with reference to a lawful claim or right, so that he who substitutes another succeeds to the rights of the other in relation to a debt or claim, including its remedies or securities. The principle covers a situation wherein an insurer who has paid a loss under an insurance policy is entitled to all the rights and remedies belonging to the insured against a third party with respect to any loss covered by the policy.26

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