If the person under custody is a minor, those exercising special parental authority are principally and solidarily liable for damages caused by the acts or omissions of the unemancipated minor while under their supervision, instruction, or custody

The Court of Appeals held petitioner St. Mary’s Academy liable for the death of Sherwin Carpitanos under Articles 218[7] and 219[8] of the Family Code, pointing out that petitioner was negligent in allowing a minor to drive and in not having a teacher accompany the minor students in the jeep.

Under Article 218 of the Family Code, the following shall have special parental authority over a minor child while under their supervision, instruction or custody: (1) the school, its administrators and teachers; or (2) the individual, entity or institution engaged in child care.  This special parental authority and responsibility applies to all authorized activities, whether inside or outside the premises of the school, entity or institution.  Thus, such authority and responsibility applies to field trips, excursions and other affairs of the pupils and students outside the school premises whenever authorized by the school or its teachers.[9]

Under Article 219 of the Family Code, if the person under custody is a minor, those exercising special parental authority are principally and solidarily liable for damages caused by the acts or omissions of the unemancipated minor while under their supervision, instruction, or custody.[10]

However, for petitioner to be liable, there must be a finding that the act or omission considered as negligent was the proximate cause of the injury caused because the negligence must have a causal connection to the accident.[11]

“In order that there may be a recovery for an injury, however, it must be shown that the ‘injury for which recovery is sought must be the legitimate consequence of the wrong done; the connection between the negligence and the injury must be a direct and natural sequence of events, unbroken by intervening efficient causes.’ In other words, the negligence must be the proximate cause of the injury.  For, ‘negligence, no matter in what it consists, cannot create a right of action unless it is the proximate cause of the injury complained of.’ And ‘the proximate cause of an injury is that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.’”[12]

In this case, the respondents failed to show that the negligence of petitioner was the proximate cause of the death of the victim.

Respondents Daniel spouses and Villanueva admitted that the immediate cause of the accident was not the negligence of petitioner or the reckless driving of James Daniel II, but the detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep.

In their comment to the petition, respondents Daniel spouses and Villanueva admitted the documentary exhibits establishing that the cause of the accident was the detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep.  Hence, the cause of the accident was not the recklessness of James Daniel II but the mechanical defect in the jeep of Vivencio Villanueva.  Respondents, including the spouses Carpitanos, parents of the deceased Sherwin Carpitanos, did not dispute the report and testimony of the traffic investigator who stated that the cause of the accident was the detachment of the steering wheel guide that caused the jeep to turn turtle.

Significantly, respondents did not present any evidence to show that the proximate cause of the accident was the negligence of the school authorities, or the reckless driving of James Daniel II.  Hence, the respondents’ reliance on Article 219 of the Family Code that “those given the authority and responsibility under the preceding Article shall be principally and solidarily liable for damages caused by acts or omissions of the unemancipated minor” was unfounded.

Further, there was no evidence that petitioner school allowed the minor James Daniel II to drive the jeep of respondent Vivencio Villanueva.  It was Ched Villanueva, grandson of respondent Vivencio Villanueva, who had possession and control of the jeep.  He was driving the vehicle and he allowed James Daniel II, a minor, to drive the jeep at the time of the accident.

Hence, liability for the accident, whether caused by the negligence of the minor driver or mechanical detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep, must be pinned on the minor’s parents primarily.  The negligence of petitioner St. Mary’s Academy was only a remote cause of the accident.  Between the remote cause and the injury, there intervened the negligence of the minor’s parents or the detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep.

“The proximate cause of an injury is that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.”[13]

Considering that the negligence of the minor driver or the detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep owned by respondent Villanueva was an event over which petitioner St. Mary’s Academy had no control, and which was the proximate cause of the accident, petitioner may not be held liable for the death resulting from such accident.

Incidentally, there was no question that the registered owner of the vehicle was respondent Villanueva.  He never denied and in fact admitted this fact.  We have held that the registered owner of any vehicle, even if not used for public service, would primarily be responsible to the public or to third persons for injuries caused the latter while the vehicle was being driven on the highways or streets.”[17]Hence, with the overwhelming evidence presented by petitioner and the respondent Daniel spouses that the accident occurred because of the detachment of the steering wheel guide of the jeep, it is not the school, but the registered owner of the vehicle who shall be held responsible for damages for the death of Sherwin Carpitanos.

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2002/feb2002/143363.htm

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Family Code, Torts and Damages and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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