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Negligence; Culpa Aquiliana and Culpa Contractual

Liability of the Head of House for Negligent Acts of the Driver who is his Minor Child
GUTIERREZ V. GUTIERREZ
23 September, 1931
Malcolm, J.
Petition:
Parties:
Narciso Gutierrez - plaintiffs-appellees
Bonifacio Gutierrez, Maria V. De Gutierrez, Manuel Gutierrez, Abelardo Velasco,
and Saturnino Cortez - defendants-appellants
Facts:
On February 2, 1930, a passenger truck and a privately owned car collided while attempting to pass
each other on the Talon bridge on the Manila South Road in the municipality of Las Piñas. The diver
of the car, Bonifacio Gutierrez, an 18 y/o boy, son of the car’s owners Manuel and Maria Gutierrez. It
was found by the trial court that both the boy and the driver of the autobus were negligent by
which neither of them were willing to slow up and give the right of way to the other. Plaintiff is the
passenger of the bus who as a result of the incident fractured his right leg to his damage which
results in permanent lameness. Thus, plaintiff sued the boy, his parents as owners of the car, the
bus driver and its owner for damages. The trial court ruled in favor of plaintiff. Hence, this appeal.
Issue: What are the respective legal obligations of the defendant? How should civil liability be
imposed upon the parties in the case at bar?
Ruling: The case is dealing with the civil liability of parties for obligations which arise from fault or
negligence. For the boy, it is his father who is liable (based on culpa aquiliana) to the plaintiff The
guaranty given by the father at the time the son was granted a license to operate motor vehicles
made the father responsible for the acts of his son. Furthermore, the car was of general use of the
family, second, the boy was authorized or designated by his father to run the car, third, at the time
of the collision the car is used for the purpose not of the child’s pleasure but that of the other
members of the car owner’s family members. The theory of the law is that the running of the
machine by a child to carry other members of the family is within the scope of the owner’s
business, so that he is liable for the negligence of the child because of the relationship of master
and servant. For the chauffer and the bus owner (based on culpa contractual), their liability rests
upon the contract (contract of carriage) whereas that degree of care expected from the chauffer is
lacking. Plaintiff will have judgment in his favor against defendants, jointly and severally, for the
sum of P5,ooo, and the cost of both instances.
Notes:
Culpa Aquiliana - Liability arises from a mere tort, not involving a breach of positive obligation, an
employer or master may excuse himself by proving he had exercised “all the diligence of a good
father of a family to prevent the damage.
Culpa Contractual – Diligence is not available as a defense though it may mitigate damages.
* The theory of the law is that the running of the machine by a child to carry other members of the
family is within the scope of the owner’s business, so that he is liable for the negligence of the child
because of the relationship of master and servant.