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51 SCRA 181
MAKALINTAL; June 4, 1973


The Realistic Institute, owned and operated by Mercedes M. Teague,

was a vocational school for hair and beauty culture situated on the
second floor of the Gil-Armi Building, a two-storey, semi-concrete
edifice located at the comer of Quezon Boulevard and Soler Street,
Quiapo, Manila.
The second floor was unpartitioned, had a total area of about 400
square meters, and although it had only one stairway, of about 1.50
meters in width, it had eight windows, each of which was provided
with two fire-escape ladders, and the presence of each of the fire
exits was indicated on the wall.
In the afternoon of October 24, 1955, a fire broke out in a store for
surplus materials located about ten meters away from the institute.
Soler Street lay between that store and the institute.
Upon seeing the fire, some of the students in the Realistic Institute
shouted 'Fire! Fire!' and thereafter, a panic ensued.
Four instructresses and six assistant instructresses of the institute
were present and they, together with the registrar, tried to calm
down the students, who numbered about 180 at the time, telling
them not to be afraid because the Gil-Armi Building would not get
burned as it is made of concrete, and that the fire was anyway,
across the street.
They told the students not to rush out but just to go down the
stairway two by two, or to use the fire-escapes.
The panic, however, could not be subdued and the students kept on
rushing and pushing their way through the stairs, thereby causing
No part of the Gil-Armi Building caught fire.
But, after the panic was over, four students, including Lourdes
Fernandez, sister of plaintiffs, were found dead and several others
injured on account of the stampede.
The CFI of Manila found for the defendant and dismissed the case.
The plaintiffs appealed to the CA, which by a divided vote of 3 to 2
(a special division of five members having been constituted) rendered
a judgment of reversal and sentenced the defendant to pay
damages to the plaintiffs in the sum of P11,000, plus interest at the
legal rate from the date the complaint was filed.

The CA declared that Teague was negligent and that such

negligence was the proximate cause of the death of Lourdes
This finding of negligence is based primarily on the fact that the
provision of Section 491 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of
Manila had not been complied with in connection with the
construction and use of the Gil-Armi building. This provision reads as
"Sec. 491. Fireproof partitions, exits and stairways - All buildings and
separate sections of buildings or buildings otherwise known as
accessorias having less than three stories, having one or more
persons domiciled therein either temporarily or permanently, and all
public or quasipublic buildings having less than three stories, such as
hospitals, sanitarium, schools, reformatories, places of human
detention, assembly halls, clubs, restaurants or panciterias, and the
like, shall be provided with at least two unobstructed stairways of
not less than one meter and twenty centimeters in width and an
inclination of not less than forty degrees from the perpendicular, in
case of large buildings more than two stairways shall likewise be
provided when required by the chief of the fire department, said
stairways shall be placed as far apart as possible."

The alleged violation of the ordinance consisted is that the second

storey of the building
had only one stairway, 1.5 meters wide,
instead of two of at least 1.2 meters each, although at the time of
the fire the owner of the building had a second stairway under

1. WON Section 491 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Manila refers
only to public buildings and hence did not apply to the Gil-Armi building
which was of private ownership
2. WON the ordinance devolved upon the owners of the building and
therefore it is they and not the petitioner, who is a mere lessee, who should
be liable for the violation
3. WON the failure to comply with the requirement of the ordinance was the
proximate cause of the death of Lourdes Fernandez
1. NO.

Ratio it is not ownership which determines the character of buildings subject

to its requirements, but rather the use or the purpose for which a particular
building, is utilized.

Thus the same may be privately owned, but if it is devoted to any

one of the purposes mentioned in the ordinance - for instance as a
school, which the Realistic Institute precisely was - then the building
is within the coverage of the ordinance.

Indeed the requirement that such a building should have two (2)
separate stairways instead of only one (1) has no relevance or
reasonable relation to the fact of ownership, but does have such
relation to the use or purpose for which the building is devoted.
2. NO.
Reasoning It was the use of the building for school purposes which brought
the same within the coverage of the ordinance; and it was the petitioner and
not the owners who were responsible for such use.

3. YES.
Ratio The violation of a statute or ordinance is not rendered remote as the
cause of an injury by the intervention of another agency if the occurrence of
the accident, in the manner in which it happened, was the very thing which
the statute or ordinance was intended to prevent.


The proximate legal cause is that acting first and producing the
injury, either immediately or by settling other events in motion, all
constituting a natural and continuous chain of events, each having a
close causal connection with its immediate predecessor, the final
event in the chain immediately affecting the injury as a natural and
probable result of the cause which first acted, under such
circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should,
as an ordinarily prudent and intelligent person, have reasonable
ground to expect at the moment of his act or default that an injury
to some person might probably result there from. [Citing Bataclan v

The petitioner relates the chain of events that resulted in the death
of Lourdes Fernandez as follows: (1) violation of ordinance; (2) fire
at a neighboring place; (3) shouts of "Fire!, Fire!"; (4) panic in the
Institute; (5) stampede; and (6) injuries and death.

The violation of the ordinance, it is argued, was only a remote

cause, and cannot be the basis of liability since there intervened a

number of independent causes which produced the injury

complained of.
A prior and remote cause cannot be made the basis of an action if
such remote cause did nothing more than furnish the condition or
give rise to the occasion by which the injury was made possible, if
there intervened between such prior or remote cause and the injury
a distinct, successive, unrelated, and efficient cause of the injury,
even though such injury would not have happened but for such
condition or occasion.
If no danger existed in the condition except because of the
independent cause, such condition was not the proximate cause.
And if an independent negligent act or defective condition sets into
operation the circumstances which result in injury because of the
prior defective condition, such subsequent act or condition is the
proximate cause. [Citing MERALCO v Remoquillo]
According to the petitioner "the events of fire, panic and stampede
were independent causes with no causal connection at all with the
violation of the ordinance."
The weakness in the argument springs from a faulty juxtaposition of
the events which formed a chain and resulted in the injury.
It is true that the petitioner's non-compliance with the ordinance in
question was ahead of and prior to the other events in point of
time, in the sense that it was coetaneous with its occupancy of the
But the violation was a continuing one, since the ordinance was a
measure of safety designed to prevent a specific situation which
would pose a danger to the occupants of the building.
That situation was undue overcrowding in case it should become
necessary to evacuate the building, which, it could be reasonably
foreseen, was bound to happen under emergency conditions if there
was only one stairway available.
It is true that in this particular case there would have been no
overcrowding in the single stairway if there had not been a fire in
the neighborhood which caused the students to panic and rush
headlong for the stairs in order to go down.
But it was precisely such contingencies or events that the authors
of the ordinance had in mind, for under normal conditions one
stairway would be adequate for the occupants of the building.
To consider the violation of the ordinance as the proximate cause
of the injury does not portray the situation in its true perspective; it
would be more accurate to say that the overcrowding at the
stairway was the proximate cause and that it was precisely what the

ordinance intended to prevent by requiring that there be two

stairways instead of only one.
Under the doctrine of the cases cited by the respondents, the
principle of proximate cause applies to such violation.

The Commissioner eventually submitted his report on September 25,

1970 with the findings that while the damage sustained by the PBA
building was caused directly by the August 2, 1968 earthquake
whose magnitude was estimated at 7.3 they were also caused by the
defects in the plans and specifications prepared by the third-party
defendants' architects, deviations from said plans and specifications
by the defendant contractors and failure of the latter to observe the
requisite workmanship in the construction of the building and of the
contractors, architects and even the owners to exercise the requisite
degree of supervision in the construction of subject building.

United Construction Co., Inc. and the Nakpils claimed that it was an
act of God that caused the failure of the building which should
exempt them from responsibility and not the defective construction,
poor workmanship, deviations from plans and specifications and
other imperfections in the case of United Construction Co., Inc. or
the deficiencies in the design, plans and specifications prepared by
petitioners in the case of the Nakpils.

Dispositive Decision appealed from is affirmed.


G.R. No. L-47863 October 3, 1986

The plaintiff, Philippine Bar Association decided to construct an office

building on its lot located at Intramuros, Manila.

The construction was undertaken by the United Construction, Inc.

and the plans and specifications for the building were prepared by
the other third-party defendants Juan F. Nakpil & Sons.

The building was completed in June, 1966.

In the early morning of August 2, 1968 an unusually strong

earthquake hit Manila and the front columns of the building buckled,
causing the building to tilt forward dangerously.

The tenants vacated the building in view of its precarious condition.

As a temporary remedial measure, the building was shored up by
United Construction, Inc.
A pre-trial was conducted on March 7, 1969, during which among
others, the parties agreed to refer the technical issues involved in
the case to a Commissioner. Mr. Andres O. Hizon, who was
ultimately appointed by the trial court.

Whether or not an act of God-an unusually strong earthquake-which
caused the failure of the building, exempts from liability, parties who are
otherwise liable because of their negligence.

The applicable law governing the rights and liabilities of the parties
herein is Article 1723 of the New Civil Code, which provides:

Art. 1723. The engineer or architect who drew up the plans and
specifications for a building is liable for damages if within fifteen
years from the completion of the structure the same should collapse
by reason of a defect in those plans and specifications, or due to
the defects in the ground.

The contractor is likewise responsible for the damage if the edifice

fags within the same period on account of defects in the

construction or the use of materials of inferior quality furnished by

him, or due to any violation of the terms of the contract.

To be exempt from liability for loss because of an act of God, he

must be free from any previous negligence or misconduct by which
that loss or damage may have been occasioned.

If the engineer or architect supervises the construction, he shall be

solidarily liable with the contractor.

Acceptance of the building, after completion, does not imply waiver

of any of the causes of action by reason of any defect mentioned
in the preceding paragraph.

The negligence of the defendant and the third-party defendants

petitioners was established beyond dispute both in the lower court
and in the Intermediate Appellate Court.

Defendant United Construction Co., Inc. was found to have made

substantial deviations from the plans and specifications. and to have
failed to observe the requisite workmanship in the construction as
well as to exercise the requisite degree of supervision; while the
third-party defendants were found to have inadequacies or defects in
the plans and specifications prepared by them.

As correctly assessed by both courts, the defects in the construction

and in the plans and specifications were the proximate causes that
rendered the PBA building unable to withstand the earthquake of
August 2, 1968. For this reason the defendant and third-party
defendants cannot claim exemption from liability.

The action must be brought within ten years following the collapse
of the building.

On the other hand, the general rule is that no person shall be

responsible for events which could not be foreseen or which though
foreseen, were inevitable (Article 1174, New Civil Code).

An act of God has been defined as an accident, due directly and

exclusively to natural causes without human intervention, which by no
amount of foresight, pains or care, reasonably to have been
expected, could have been prevented. There is no dispute that the
earthquake of August 2, 1968 is a fortuitous event or an act of God.

To exempt the obligor from liability under Article 1174 of the Civil
Code, for a breach of an obligation due to an "act of God," the
following must concur:

The cause of the breach of the obligation must

independent of the will of the debtor;


The event must be either unforseeable or unavoidable;

The event must be such as to render it impossible for the

debtor to fulfill his obligation in a normal manner; and

The debtor must be free from any participation in, or

aggravation of the injury to the creditor.

Thus it has been held that when the negligence of a person concurs
with an act of God in producing a loss, such person is not exempt
from liability by showing that the immediate cause of the damage
was the act of God.

Furthermore, PLDT contends that if an entity should be held

responsible, it should be L.R. Barte and Co., an independent
contractor who undertook the construction of the trench and the
installation of the conduit system.

As such, PLDT filed a third-party complaint against Barte alleging

that, under the terms of their agreement, PLDT should in no manner
be answerable for any accident or injuries arising from the
negligence or carelessness of Barte or any of its employees.

In answer thereto, Barte claimed that it was not aware nor was it
notified of the accident involving respondent spouses and that it had
complied with the terms of its contract with PLDT by installing the
necessary and appropriate standard signs in the vicinity of the work
site, with barricades at both ends of the excavation and with red
lights at night along the excavated area to warn the traveling public
of the presence of excavations.

Whether or not the accident was imputable
negligence of PLDT or to that of Antonio Esteban.



PLDT v. CA 178 SCRA 94


The jeep which spouses Esteban ran over a mound of earth and fell
into an open trench, thereby sustaining injuries.

The trench was an excavation was allegedly undertaken for the

installation of conduit systems of PLDT.

Antonio Esteban also alleges that he failed to notice the mound of

earth and the trench since there were no adequate warning signs
and it was dark at that time.

Having sustained injuries, they filed a claim for damages against


PLDT for its part, denies liability contending that the injuries were
caused by the negligence of Antonio Esteban.

The accident was imputable to the negligence of Antonio

Esteban. First, Antonio Esteban knew of the excavations, as
he regularly passes by the route.

Secondly, the Court sustained the findings of the trial court

that the jeep could not have had been running for only 25
km/hour since, if it was doing so, it could have stopped
before it reached the mound, or at least before it went

Also, if Antonio Esteban could not have seen the mound

which was fairly big and visible, he also could not have
seen the warning devices, given the fact that he had his
dim lights on.

Filart, but the latter ignored him. He was escorted out by a police
Ruby Lim said she was the hotels executive secretary for 20 years,
and that she was tasked to organize the GMs birthday party. Mindful
of the GMs request to keep the party intimate, she requested 2
people to tell Reyes to leave, but Reyes still lingered. She had the
chance to talk to Reyes when he was starting to eat, so she told
him, Alam ninyo, hindi ho kayo dapat nandito. Pero total nakakuha

na ho kayo ng pagkain, ubusin na lang ninyo at pagkatapos kung

pwede lang po umalis na kayo. Reyes made a scene by screaming


Cause of action was one for damages brought under the human relations
provisions of NCC.

Roberto Reyes[1] said he was spotted by his friend Dr. Violeta Filart
in the hotel lobby who approached him. She invited him to join her
in the GMs birthday party at the penthouse. He carried Filarts
presenta basket of fruits.
When dinner was ready, Reyes lined up at the table but to his
embarrassment, he was stopped by Ruby Lim (Hotel Executive
In a loud voice and within the presence and hearing of other guests,
Lim told him to leavehuwag ka nang kumain, hindi ka imbitado,
bumaba ka na lang. Reyes tried to explain that he was invited by Dr.

and he threatened to dump food on her.

Dr. Filart said Reyes volunteered to carry the basket of fruits as he
was going to the elevator as well. When they reached the penthouse,
she told him to go down as he was not invited. She thought Reyes
already left but she saw him at the bar. When there was a
commotion, she saw Reyes shouting, and she ignored him, as she
did not want the GM to think that she invited him.
Reyes claimed damages (1M actual damages, 1M moral and/or
exemplary damages, 200k attorneys fees). RTC dismissed the
complaint, giving more credence to Lims testimony. RTC also said
that Reyes assumed the risk of being thrown out of the party as he
was not invited. CA reversed RTC, believing Reyes version of the
Lim and Hotel Nikko contend that they cannot be made liable for
damages under the doctrine of volenti non fit injuria as Reyes
assumed the risk of being asked to leave (and being embarrassed
and humiliated in the process) as he was a gate-crasher.


Volenti non fit injuria (to which a person assents is not esteemed in
law as injury)Self-inflicted injury or consent to injury which
precludes the recovery of damages by one who has knowingly and
voluntarily exposed himself to danger, even if he is not negligent in
doing so
Even if Reyes assumed the risk of being asked to leave the party,
petitioners were still under obligation to treat him fairly in order not
to expose him to unnecessary ridicule and shame. [NCC 19, 21]
right to ask Reyes to leave the party as she talked to him politely and

Lim, mindful of GMs instruction to keep the party intimate, would

naturally want to get rid of Reyes in the most hush-hush manner so
as not to call attention
Reyes was not able to explain why Lim would make a scene; Reyes
admitted that when Lim talked to him, she was so close enough for
him to kiss unlikely that she would shout at him at such a close
distance (SC also noted the fact that she has been in the hotel
business long enough as to imbibe virtues of politeness and
Reyes was not able to present witnesses to back up his story; all his
witnesses proved only that Filart invited him to the party

AND 21
NCC 19 (principle of abuse of rights) is not a panacea for all human
hurts and social grievances; NCC 19s object is to set certain
standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of ones
rights but also in the performance of ones duties; its elements are
the following:
o Legal right or duty
o Exercised in bad faith
o For the sole intentof prejudicing or injuring another
NCC 21 refers to acts contra bonus mores and has the following
o There is an act which is legal
o But it is contrary to morals, good custom, public order,
public policy
o And it is done with intent to injure
Common theme running through NCC 19 and 21act must be
o Reyes has not shown that Lim was driven by animosity
against him; he had a lame argument: Lim, being single at
44, had a very strong bias and prejudice against him
possibly influenced by her associates in her work at the
hotel with foreign businessmen
o Manner by which Lim asked Reyes to leave was acceptable
and humane
Any damage which Reyes might have suffered through Lims exercise of a
legitimate right done within the bounds of propriety and good faith must be
his to bear alone.

Complainants, heirs of deceased Isabel Lao Juan, initiated a

Complaint to recover damages from defendant Ilocos Norte Electric
Previously, Isabel Lao Juan was on her way to her store to check
for damage to her merchandise when she was electrocuted while
wading through waist-deep water caused by recent typhoon Gening.
There was a dangling electric wire moving in snake-like fashion in
the water.
As a defense, the company claimed that the unfortunate incident
was a result of fortuitous event and that the decedent assumed the
risk when she waded through the water.


Ilocos Norte Electric Company v. Court of Appeals

Ilocos Norte Electric was liable.

The cause of the death of the decedent was the failure of the
Company to repair the damage brought by the typhoon.
When a storm occurs that is liable to prostate the wires, due care
requires prompt efforts to discover and repair broken lines.
No assumption of risk attributable to Isabel since she was
responding to an emergency to protect her property.
Indeed, under the circumstances of the case, [the Company] was
negligent in seeing to it that no harm is done to the general
public considering that electricity is an agency, subtle and deadly,
the measure of care required of electric companies must be
commensurate with or proportionate to the danger.
The duty of exercising this high degree of diligence and care
extends to every place where persons have a right to be x x x.
The negligence of petitioner having been shown, it may not now
absolve itself from liability by arguing that the victims death was
solely due to a fortuitous event.
When an act of God combines or concurs with the negligence of
the defendant to produce an injury, the defendant is liable if the
injury would not have resulted but for his own negligent conduct or
omission x x x
As for the defense on assumption of risk, the same was not tenable.
The doctrine ofvolenti non fit injuria means that when someone
voluntarily assents to a known danger then he must abide by the
These are the exceptions: (1) when there is an emergency; (2)
protection of ones life and property; and (3) protection of life and
property of another. Here, the decedent was moved to act to
protect her property.