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CASE TITLE: Pedro de Guzman v.

Court of Appeals
G.R. NO/DATE: G.R. No. L-47822, December 22, 1988
Under Article 1745 (6) above, a common carrier is held responsible — and will not be
allowed to divest or to TRANSPORTATION LAW
diminish such responsibility — even for acts of strangers like thieves
DOCTRINE:
or robbers, except where suchA.Y. thieves
2018-2019 fact acted "with grave or irresistible
or robbers in
threat, violence or force”.

BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE CASE:


Breach of the contract to carry
Extraordinary diligence needed over common carriers

FACTS:

Ernesto Cendana was engaged in buying up used bottles and scrap metal in Pangasinan . Upon gathering
sufficient quantities of such scrap material, respondent would bring such material to Manila for resale. He
utilized (2) two six-wheeler trucks which he owned for the purpose. Upon returning to Pangasinan, he
would load his vehicle with cargo belonging to different merchants to different establishments in
Pangasisnan which respondents charged a freight fee for. Sometime in November 1970, herein petitioner
Pedro de Guzman, a merchant and dealer of General Milk Company Inc. in Pangasinan contracted with
respondent for hauling 750 cartons of milk. Unfortunately, only 150 cartons made it, as the other 600
cartons were intercepted by hijackers along Marcos Highway. Hence, petitioners commenced an action
against private respondent. In his defense, respondent argued that he cannot be held liable due to force
majuere, and that he is not a common carrier and hence is not required to exercise extraordinary
diligence. On appeal before the Court of Appeals, Cendana urged that the trial court had erred in
considering him a common carrier; in finding that he had habitually offered trucking services to the public;
in not exempting him from liability on the ground of force majeure; and in ordering him to pay damages
and attorney’s fees. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court and held that Cendana
had been engaged in transporting return loads of freight “as a casual occupation — a sideline to his scrap
iron business” and not as a common carrier. De Guzman came to the Supreme Court by way of a Petition
for Review.

ISSUES:

1. Is respondent a common carrier?


2. Is the respondent liable for the loss of the cartons of milk due to force majeure?

ARGUMENTS:

1. Herein respondent is considered as a common carrier.

Article 1732 of the New Civil Code avoids any distinction between one whose principal business activity is
the carrying of persons or goods or both and one who does such carrying only as an ancillary activity. It
also avoids a distinction between a person or enterprise offering transportation services on a regular or
scheduled basis and one offering such services on an occasional, episodic, and unscheduled basis.

2. Respondent is not liable for the value of the undelivered merchandise .

Article 1734 of the Civil Code- The general rule is established by the article that common carriers are
responsible for the loss, destruction or deterioration of the goods which they carry, unless the same is due
to any of the following causes only:

a. Flood, storm, earthquake, lightning or other natural disasters;


b. Act of the public enemy, whether international or civil;
c. Act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods;
d. Character of the goods or defects in the packing;
e. Order or act of competent public authority.

Applying the above article, we note firstly that the specific cause alleged in the instant case — the
hijacking of the carrier's truck — does not fall within any of the five (5) categories of exempting causes
listed in Article 1734. It would follow; therefore, that the hijacking of the carrier's vehicle must be dealt with
under the provisions of Article 1735, in other words, the private respondent as common carrier is
presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently. This presumption, however, may be
overthrown by proof of extraordinary diligence on the part of private respondent.

Article 1745: Any of the following or similar stipulations shall be considered unreasonable, unjust and
contrary to public policy:

xxx xxx xxx


(5) that the common carrier shall not be responsible for the acts or
omissions of his or its employees;

(6) that the common carrier's liability for acts committed by thieves, or of
robbers who do not act with grave or irresistible threat, violence or force,
is dispensed with or diminished; and

(7) that the common carrier shall not responsible for the loss, destruction
or deterioration of goods on account of the defective condition of the car
vehicle, ship, airplane or other equipment used in the contract of
carriage. (Emphasis supplied)

Under Article 1745 (6) above, a common carrier is held responsible — and will not be allowed to divest or
to diminish such responsibility — even for acts of strangers like thieves or robbers, except where such
thieves or robbers in fact acted "with grave or irresistible threat, violence or force." We believe and so
hold that the limits of the duty of extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods carried are
reached where the goods are lost as a result of a robbery which is attended by "grave or irresistible
threat, violence or force."

The decision of the trial court shows that the armed men who held up the second truck owned by private
respondent acted with grave, if not irresistible, threat, violence or force, which is an exception of the
general rule of Article 1745 (6).

RULING:

The Petition for Review on certiorari is hereby DENIED and the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated 3
August 1977 is AFFIRMED.

The occurrence of the loss must reasonably be regarded as quite beyond the control of the common
carrier and properly regarded as a fortuitous event. It is necessary to recall that even common carriers are
not made absolute insurers against all risks of travel and of transport of goods, and are not held liable for
acts or events which cannot be foreseen or are inevitable, provided that they shall have complied with the
rigorous standard of extraordinary diligence.

We, therefore, agree with the result reached by the Court of Appeals that private respondent Cendana is
not liable for the value of the undelivered merchandise which was lost because of an event entirely
beyond private respondent's control.