Malipol vs Tan

21 January 1974 | Zaldivar Facts: -

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At 8:35 in the evening, Pantaleon Malijan was walking with Leonardo Amante at the shoulder of the road in Barrio San Felix in Batangas when he was hit by a gasoline tanker and was thrown to the ground. While on the ground, Malijan was again run over by the tanker’s right wheel that got detached from its axle. Amante, with the help of the barrio captain, brouugh Malijan to the hospital, but was declared dead on arrival. The gasoline tanker was driven by Ernesto Labasan, employee of Lily Lim Tan. So the plaintiffs (Malipol is Malijan’s mother, and the other plaintiffs are Malijan’s brothers and sisters), filed a case for damages against Tan and the driver. The defendants failed to answer so they were declared in default, and son the plaintiffs were allowed to present evidence ex parte. After this, the trial court rendered a decision in favour of the plaintiffs. Labasan the driver was ordered to pay for the hospitalization exponses, medical treatment, vigil and burial of Malijan, as well as indemnity for death, loss of earnings, moral damages, attorney’s fees and the cost of the suit. The trial court held that if Labasan can’t pay, Tan should pay as she is subsidiarily liable as owner and operator of the tanker. And so defendants appealed and asked that the order of default be lifted, and asked for a new trial. They said that the accident was due to force majeure, and that Tan exercised the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage. But the trial court denied this appeal. Mostly procedural matters were brought up, with defendants saying that they didn’t file an answer because th their lawyer only told them about the suit on the 11 day after receipt, but still the court didn’t excuse defendants from not answering especially since they still had 4 days to answer. The defendants further put blame on their lawyer Atty. Chavez who was allegedly abnormal at that time, as shown by his having committed suicide a few months after the complaint was lodged. But the court held that Atty. Chavez still exercised ordinary and reasonable care over the interests of his client when he made a long distance call to Tan asking for the specifics of the case, then endorsed the suit to Atty. De Castro.

Issue: What should be the nature of Tan’s liability? Direct. Rationale: After discussing procedural matters, the SC however found a flaw in the trial court’s decision. Labasan was held primarily liable for damages, and the owner was just subsidiarily liable. This is not correct because this is a civil case, not a criminal case! The owner, under 2180, of establishments or enterprises is directly liable! The employer, however, can demand reimbursement from his employee of the amount he paid. Therefore in this case, Tan should be held primarily liable, without prejudice to her asking for reimbursement from Labasan. Ruling: The lower court’s denial of the motion to lift order of default and new trial is affirmed.

Fernandez, concurring and dissenting The negligence of Tan and Atty. Chavez should be excused. Chavez had a troubled mind, that’s why he misinformed the parties on the date of summons. Atty de Castro was not negligent since he relied on the information Atty. Chavez gave. So, Justice Fernandez believes Tan should’ve been granted a new trial.