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G.R.No.L13048,StandardVacuumOilCo.v.

TanandCA

RepublicofthePhilippines SUPREMECOURT Manila ENBANC DECISION February27,1960 G.R.No.L13048 STANDARDVACUUMOILCO.,petitioner, vs. ANITATANandTHECOURTOFAPPEALS,respondents. Ross,Selph,CarrascosoandJandaforpetitioner. AlbertoR.deJoyaforrespondents. ,J.: OnMay3,1949,JulitoSto.DomingoandIgmidioRico,employeesoftheStandardVacuumOilCompany (hereinafterreferredtoasSTANVAC),weredeliveringgasolinefromatanktrailertotheRuralTransitCo.at its garage at Rizal Avenue Extension, City of Manila. While the gasoline was being discharged to a subterraneantank,thedischargehosesuddenlycaughtfire.Itspreadtotherearpartofthetanktruck,and assomebodyshouted,Fire,fire!Sto.Domingo,whowasthenbusywritinghisreportinsidethecabofthe truck,wentdowntoinvestigate.Hesawthathishelper,Rico,hadalreadyremovedthehoseandclosedthe capscrewofthetank.ObeyingthesignalofRico,whosustainedburnsonhisface,Sto.Domingodroveout thetruckfromthegasolinestationcompoundtowardsRizalAvenueExtension.Butuponreachingthestreet, heabandonedthetruckwithoutsettingitsparkingbrake.Consequently,thevehiclecontinuedmovingtothe oppositesideofthestreetcausingthreehousesonthatsideoneofthembelongingtoAnitaTantobe burnedanddestroyed. JulitoSto.DomingoandIgmidioRicoweresubsequentlychargedwitharsonthroughrecklessimprudencein theCourtofFirstInstanceofManila.Bothwere,however,acquittedafterduetrialbecausetheirnegligence wasnotprovenandnobodyknewwhatcausedorstartedthefire,itbeingjustanunfortunateaccident. Anita Tan then filed acomplaint in the Court ofFirst Instance of Manila against STANVAC,Julito Sto. DomingoandIgmidioRico,seekingtorecoverthesumofP12,000.00whichwasthecostoftheconstruction andrepairofherhouse,pluslegalinterests.Thiscomplaintwaslateramendedtoaskforactualandmoral damagesandtoincludeasdefendanttheRuralTransitCompany.Upondefendantsmotionthecomplaint

was dismissed. But on appeal, the order of dismissal was affirmed by this Court only with respect to defendantsSto.DomingoandRico,andreversedwithregardtotheothertwodefendants.(AnitaTanvs. StandardVacuumOilCo.,etal.,91Phil.672.). Inthecourtaquoafterthecasehadbeenremanded,thecomplaintwasfinallyamendedtoincludeadditional partydefendantsandtosubstitutethenameofRuralTransitCo.withBachrachMotorCo.,Inc.,ithaving beenfoundthattheformerwasbutagarageandgasolinestationownedandoperatedbythelatter. Aftertheissueshadbeenjoinedandseveralhearingsheld,thetrialcourtrenderedjudgment,thedispositive partofwhichreads: Inviewofalltheforegoingconsiderations,analternativeandconditionaljudgmentisherebyrenderedas follows: 1.Underthefirstcauseofactionforculpaaquiliana,thedefendantsStandardVacuumOilCompanyandthe Bachrach Motor Company are hereby ordered to pay the plaintiff, jointly and severally, (a) the sum of P10,630.80forwhatplaintiffhasspentinthereconstructionofherhouseNo.2540,RizalAvenueExtension, thisCity,withinterestthereonattherateof6%perannumfromJanuary6,1950,thedateofthefilingofthe originalcomplaintinthiscase;(b)P2,700.00forrentalswhichshefailedtoreceivewhilesaidhousewas underconstruction;(c)P1,000.00formoraldamages;(d)fifteenpercent(15%)oftheamountsmentionedin (a),(b)and(c)ofthisparagraphforattorneysfees;and(d)topaythecosts; 2.UnderthesecondcauseofactionandinpursuanceoftheprovisionsofArt.101,2ndpar.oftheRevised Penal Code, defendants Pilar T. Bautista, Milagros G. Tinio, and the Heirs of the deceased Inocencio Gochangco,towit,SeverinaL.Gochangco,ConradoGochangco,SegundinaAlcazarandNoemiG.Palma (theseheirsasone),areherebyorderedtopayplaintiffthesameamountswhichappearinNo.1ofthe dispositivepartofthisdecisioninproportiontothevaluesoftheirrespectivepropertiesasabovesetforth but,ifthisjudgmentisexecutedagainstthemandtheydopay,theirpaymentshallbewithoutprejudiceto seek proportional reimbursement from defendants Gloria Posadas Arkonel and the Bachrach Motor Company,whosepropertieshavealsobeensavedfromtheconflagration; 3.PlaintiffshallnotbeentitledtobothoftheremediesmentionedinNos.1and2hereof,norcanthe defendantsineithernumberseekreimbursementfromthoseintheother. Fromthatjudgment,thetwodefendantcompaniesappealedtotheCourtofAppeals.OnSeptember18,1957, thatcourtrendereditsdecisionabsolvingBachrachMotorCo.,Inc.,fromanyliability,butaffirmingthe appealedjudgmentwithrespecttoSTANVAC,withthemodificationthatitshallpayplaintiffAnitaTanonly theamountofP13,036.60,pluslegalinterest.STANVACinduetimefiledamotionforreconsideration,but thesamehavingbeendenied,itfiledthepresentpetitionforreviewoncertiorari. TheCourtofAppealsinthedecisioncomplainedofexpresslyfoundthattherecordofthecaseatbaris repletewithevidenceshowingthatifthefirethatguttedthehouseofAnitaTanwasnotcausedbySto. DomingosandRicoscriminalnegligence,evidentlyitwassocausedbytheirfaultandlackofequanimityin thepresenceofthefirewhichsuddenlyandforunknownreasonssparkedinthedischargehoseandwhich couldhavebeenputoutbytheproperandopportuneuseofthefireextinguishers]withthetanktrailerwas equipped.Italsofoundthattherewasnegligenceonpartoftheemployer,hereinpetitionerSTANVAC itself,inthedirectionorsupervisionofitstwoemployees.Tobettershowtheactsoromissionsconstituting thefaultornegligenceofpetitioneranditstwoemployees,thepertinentportionofthedecisionoftheCourt ofAppealsishereunderquotedasfollows: ItisadmittedthattheRuralTransitStationhadashadedportionandanopencementedspace.Themain openingofitssubterraneantankwasnearertheshadedpartthanRizalAvenueExtension.Itispresumed thatduringthedischargeoperationthetanktrailerwasparkedinthemiddleoftheopenspacewhichhad

anareaof65feet by55feet(Exh.Q).Hence,hadthetanktrailer truckbeenleft inthat openspace, appellees house would not have been burned nor would an explosion of the underground tank have occurredbecause,accordingtoSto.Domingohimself,whenhedrovethetruckouttothestreet,Ricohad alreadyremovedthehosefromtheopeningofsaidtankandcloseditwiththecapscrew(t.s.n.,p.100 Santiago.)ThisconclusionisfullysustainedbythenActingDeputyChiefoftheManilaFireDepartment, BraulioAlonawho,whenaskedifthesubterraneantankwouldhaveexplodedhadnotthetanktrailerbeen removedfromtheplacewhereitcaughtfire,categoricallyanswered,No,se or,noexplotaria.(t.s.n.,p.9 Quimpo.). Itislikewiseadmittedthatthetwofireextinguisherswhichthetanktrailercarried(appellantsbrief,p.24), werenotdetachedandputtousebySto.DomingoandRico.Instead,inopenviolationofconditionNo.8of the Permit, for the Transportation of Combustible by Tank Truck (Exh. X2 ) which provides that Wheneverrefillingorfillingworkisconducted,fireextinguishermustbeonhandandreadiedforfire emergencybyanexperiencedoperatoruntilthefillordischargeoperationiscompletedSto.Domingo wentintothecabofthetrucktowritehisreportwhileRicowatchedwithemptyhandstheunloadingofthe gasoline.Hadbothemployeesofappellantoilcompanycompliedwiththeconditionjustquotedbyclosely observingthedischargeoperationwiththefireextinguishersintheirhandsreadyforuse,theycouldhave usedtheseinstrumentsinstantlyandwouldcertainlyhavebeenabletoputoutthesparkthatignitedthe hoseduringthedischargeoperationjustastheforemanofRuralTransitStationsucceededinputtingoutthe fireatthemouthoftheundergroundtankbytheproperusageofthestationsonlyextinguisher. Theabovetranscribedconditionspeaksofanexperiencedoperatorwhomustuseandoperatethefire extinguisher.Yet,Sto.Domingo,who,accordingtoappellantsevidence,hadsometrainingandtookperiodic refreshercoursesontheproperwayofmakingdeliveryofitshighlyinflammableproductsbymeansoftank trailer,includingtheuseandoperationofthefireextinguisher,didnotpersonallyattendtothedischargeof thegasolinebutentrustedthisverydelicateandmostriskytasktoIgmidioRico,whohadnotrainingatall orifhehadsome,itwasnotprovenduringthetrial. Whilethedischargeofthegasolinetotheundergroundtankwasundertaken,thereweremanypersons waitingforthepassengertruckabouttwoorthreemetersfromthetanktrailertruck,millingaboutit (t.s.n.,pp.9and10Garcia).EvenSto.Domingoadmittedthatwhenhestoppedwritingandturnedaround becauseoftheshoutoffire,fire!hesawawomanattheleftsideofhistruckwhorantowardsabusinside theRuralTransitgarage(Exh.N2).Itwasindeedlackofforesight,borderingonculpablenegligence,on thepartofSto.DomingoandRicotohaveallowedmanypersonstoroamaroundnearthetanktrailerwhile the discharge of thegasoline was under way, considering thehigh volatility andinflammability of this liquid. SixtaLazaro,wholiveddirectlyacrossthestreetfromtheRuralTransitStation,declared:OnMay3,1949, between3and3:30oclock intheafternoonIwaspicking clothesstretchedunderthesunandIheard somebodyshoutingsunog,sunog(fire,fire).WhenIturnedmyheadtolookatthedirectionfromwhich theshoutcame,IsawinsidethegarageoftheRuralTransitCompanyagreentruckdischarginggasoline, withtherearpartalreadyaflame.Iwenttoourbathroomtoseebetterwhatwashappening.Isawthedriver startedthetruckperhapstodriveitoutfromthepremisesbutbeforethetruckreachedthestreetthedriver jumpoutfromhisseat.IsawthetruckcomingrighttothedirectionofourhousesoIpickedupmyboy abouttwoyearsoldandIwentdownstairs.WehavejustreacheddownstairswhenIheardthetruckwas jummedattheditchinfrontofourhouse.(t.s.n.,pp.21and22,Garcia).Accordingtothiswitness,afterthe driverjumpedout,thetruckcontinuedinmotion(t.s.n.,p.26Garciaandtheflameattherearpartofthe truckwasstillaboutonefoothighfromthebottomofthetank,(t.s.n.,p.28Garcia)inaplacemarkedas circle1inExhibitD.Evidently,Sto.Domingowasseizedwithpanicandabandonedthetruckwithout settingitsparkingbrakeandwithoutusingtheextinguisherwhichwasplacedontheusualplaceonthe sideofthetruck(t.s.n.,p.25Garcia).HadhestoppedthetruckonthewesternsideofRizalAvenue Extensionandoperatedthefireextinguisherinsteadofrunningawayfromthesceneofoccurrence,most probablyhecouldhavecheckedthefireandpreventedtheburningofappelleeshouse,becauseevenatthat momentthefireintherearpartofthetanktrailerwasonlyaboutonefoothigh.Thefactnarratedinthefive precedingparagraphsprovethattheemployeesofappellantoilcompanydidnotexercisespecialcareand

diligencerequiredbytheexceptionalcharacteroftheworktheywereundertakingonMay3,1949,inthe ordinarycourseoftheiremploymentintheserviceofappellantoilcompany. Anotherequallyunmeritoriouscontentionofappellantoilcompanyisthatthetrialcourterredinholding thatthisappellantwasnegligentinnothavingappropriatelyinstructeditsemployees. Itisofcommonknowledgethatgasolineisahighlyvolatileandcombustibleliquid.Forthisreason,aside from the requirements and tanktrailers should have drag chains or other flexible metallic devices long enoughtoreachtheground;thatitshoulduseonlyelectriclightswithfusesorautomaticcircuitbreakers; thatsmokingisabsolutelyprohibitedduringdeliveriesorwhenthetankisbeingfilled;andothers(Exh.K 2),theownersorsellersofsaidliquidmustproperlyinstructtheirlaborersandemployeeschargedwiththe deliveryorhandlingoftheliquidonhowtomanipulatethefireextinguisherssothattheymayinstantlyput outanyspark.Theyshouldlikewisebegiventhelocationofthenearestfirealarmforimmediatenotification ofthefiredepartmentifthesparkassumesproportionsgreaterthancanbeextinguishedbythesmallhand apparatus.IthasnotbeenshownthatIgmidioRicoreceivedanysuchinstructionortrainingfromappellant; andJulitoSto.Domingo,whounderwentsometraining,testifiedthatduringhistrainingperiodandthree yearsofservice,hewasnotinstructedontheusageandshownthelocationsofthefirealarmsinthevicinity ofthestationswhereheusedtodelivergasoline,neitherwashegivenbytheappellantanysketchormapto showthelocationofsaidfirealarms(t.s.n.,pp.31and32Boaquia).Thus,hewasnotabletolocateanyfire alarmduringhistenminutelaborioussearch.HadanearlywarningfromSto.Domingobeenreceivedbythe firedepartment,thedestructionofappelleeshousemighthavebeenpreventedbythepromptactionofthe firemen. Ontheotherhand,appellantoilcompanyknewofthepracticeofSto.Domingoofwritinghisreportsinthe cabofthetruckduringdischargeoperations,andyetappellantoilcompanydidnotadvisehimagainstitnor prohibithimfromdoingit(t.s.n.,pp.60,63and64Santiago).HadappellantorderedSto.Domingotostop this practice and instructed him to personally attend to the discharge of the gasoline with the fire extinguisherready,hewouldindubitablyhavebeenabletocheckthefireatitsinception,takingintoaccount hisspecialtrainingwhichRicodidnothave. Obviously,thoseconsiderationsfrustrateappellantsattempttoexculpateitselfunderthelastparagraphof Article1903oftheoldCivilCode,bytryingtofutilelyprovethatitexercisedthediligenceofagoodfatherof afamilytopreventthedamagetoappelleesproperty. CounselforpetitionerSTANVACcontendsthatsinceitsemployeesSto.DomingoandRicohadpreviously beenfoundbycompetentcourttobenotnegligentreferringtotheacquittingtheminthecriminalcasefor arsonthrurecklessimprudencesaidpetitionercannotnowbeheldliablefordamages.Thecontention,in ouropinion,cannotbesustained.ItisadmittedthatrespondentAnitaTansoughttoholdSTANVACliable underArticle1902and1903oftheoldCivilCode,thelawinforceatthetimethefireisquestionoccurred. Underthosearticles,theliabilityoftheemployerisprimaryanddirect,baseduponhisownnegligence (culpaaquiliana)andnotonthatofhisemployeesorservants.(Cangcovs.ManilaRailroadCo.,38Phil.768.) The present proceeding, therefore, is entirely unrelated to the judgment in the criminal case where petitionerstwoemployeeswereacquittedbecausetheircriminalnegligencewasnotprovedandthecauseof the fire could not be determined. Parenthetically, after the trial court had ordered the dismissal of respondentAnitaTanscomplaint,thisCourtonappealreversedthatorderastoSTANVACandauthorized theproceedingsagainstsaidcompany,whichwassuednotpreciselybecauseofthenegligentactsofitstwo employeesbutbecauseoftheactsofitsownwhichmighthavecontributedtothefirethatdestroyedthe houseofplaintiff(hereinrespondentAnitaTan).Continuing,thisCourtfurtherobservedthat ...Thecomplaintcontainsdefiniteallegationsofnegligentactsproperlyattributabletothecompanywhich ifprovenandnotrefutedmayserveasbasisofitscivilliability.Thus,inparagraph5ofthefirstcauseof action, it is expressly alleged that this company, through its employees, failed to take the necessary precautionsormeasurestoinsuresafetyandavoidharmtopersonsanddamagetopropertyaswellasto observethatdegreeofcare,precautionandvigilancewhichthecircumstancesjustlydemanded,thereby

causingthegasolinetheywereunloadingtocatchfire.Theprecautionsormeasureswhichthiscompanyhas allegedfailedtotaketopreventfirearenotclearlystated,buttheyaremattersofevidencewhichneednot nowbedetermined.Sufficeittosay,thatsuchallegationfurnishesenoughbasisforacauseofactionagainst thiscompany.... Takinggreatpainsinminutelyscrutinizingtheallegationsinthecomplaint,counselforpetitioneraversthat STANVACwasmerelyreferredtothereinastheemployerandwasnotatallchargedwithnegligence.Bethat asitmay,itisundisputedthatnoobjectionwasmadetothepresentationofevidenceastonegligentactsof STANVAC during the trial of the case. As a matter of fact, it even tried to overcome that evidence by introducingevidenceofitsowntendingtoshowthatithademployedthediligenceofagoodfatherofa familytopreventthedamage.Theissue,therefore,regardingthenegligenceofpetitionerSTANVACeven assumingthatthecomplaintdoesnotreallycontainallegationsofnegligentactsproperlyattributabletoit must beconsideredasifit hadbeenraisedinthepleadings.AndtheCourtofAppeals,whosefactual findingsarefinalandconclusiveuponthisCourt,havingfoundthatpetitionercompanydidfailtotake necessaryprecautionsormeasurestopreventfire,andthatthefirethatdestroyedrespondentAnitaTans house could have been avoided had petitioner exercised due care in the supervision or control of its employees,theappellatecourtsrulingonitsliabilitycannotnowbedisturbed. Inviewoftheforegoing,thedecisionsoughttobereviewedisherebyaffirmed,withcostsagainstpetitioner. Paras, C.J., Bengzon, Montemayor, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Concepcion, Reyes, J.B.L., Endencia and Barrera,JJ.,concur.