Definition and Elements of Negligence; Negligence and Proximate Cause of the Accident

Negligence has been defined as the failure to observe for the protection of the interests of another person that degree of care, precaution, and vigilance which the circumstances justly demand, whereby such other person suffers injury.[34]

The elements of simple negligence: are (1) that there is lack of precaution on the part of the offender; and (2) that the damage impending to be caused is not immediate or the danger is not clearly manifest.[35]

The standard test in determining whether a person is negligent in doing an act whereby injury or damage results to the person or property of another is this: could a prudent man, in the position of the person to whom negligence is attributed, foresee harm to the person injured as a reasonable consequence of the course actually pursued?  If so, the law imposes a duty on the actor to refrain from that course or to take precautions to guard against its mischievous results, and the failure to do so constitutes negligence.  Reasonable foresight of harm, followed by the ignoring of the admonition born of this provision, is always necessary before negligence can be held to exist.[36]

In Philippine National Construction Corporation v. Court of Appeals,[37] the petitioner was the franchisee that operates and maintains the toll facilities in the North and South Luzon Toll Expressways. It failed to exercise the requisite diligence in maintaining the NLEX safe for motorists. The lighted cans and lane dividers on the highway were removed even as flattened sugarcanes lay scattered on the ground. The highway was still wet from the juice and sap of the flattened sugarcanes. The petitioner should have foreseen that the wet condition of the highway would endanger motorists passing by at night or in the wee hours of the morning.[38] Consequently, it was held liable for damages.

In an American case, Hernandez v. Lukas,[39] a motorist traveling within the speed limit and did all was possible to avoid striking a child who was then six years old only. The place of the incident was a neighborhood where children were playing in the parkways on prior occasions. The court ruled that it must be still proven that the driver did not exercise due care.   The evidence showed that the driver was proceeding in lawful manner within the speed limit when the child ran into the street and was struck by the driver’s vehicle. Clearly, this was an emergency situation thrust upon the driver too suddenly to avoid.

In this case, the courts below zeroed in on the fact that petitioner did not stop the jeepney when he felt the bouncing of his vehicle, a circumstance  which  the  appellate court equates with negligence. Petitioner contends that he did not immediately stop because he did not see anybody go near his vehicle at the time of the incident.[40]

Assuming arguendo that petitioner had been negligent, it must be shown that his negligence was the proximate cause of the accident. Proximate cause is defined as that which, in the natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient, intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have

  1. [41] In order to establish a motorist’s liability for the negligent operation of a vehicle, it must be shown that there was a direct causal connection between such negligence and the injuries or damages complained of. Thus, negligence that is not a substantial contributing factor in the causation of the accident is not the proximate cause of an injury.[42]

The head injuries sustained by Dayata at the point of impact proved to be the immediate cause of his death, as indicated in the post-mortem findings.[43] His skull was crushed as a result of the accident. Had petitioner immediately stopped the jeepney, it would still not have saved the life of the victim as the injuries he suffered were fatal.

The evidence on record do not show that the jeepney dragged the victim after he was hit and run over by the jeepney. Quite the contrary, the evidence discloses that the victim was not dragged at all. In fact, it is the other way around. Bongolto narrated that after the impact, he saw Dayata left behind the jeepney.[44] Actub saw Dayata in a prone position and bleeding within seconds after impact.[45] Right after the impact, Mellalos immediately jumped out of the jeepney and saw the victim lying on the ground.[46] The distance of 5.70 meters is the length of space between the spot where the victim fell to the ground and the spot where the jeepney stopped as observed by the trial judge during the ocular inspection at the scene of the accident.[47]

Moreover, mere suspicions and speculations that the victim could have lived had petitioner stopped can never be the basis of a conviction in a criminal case.[48] The Court must be satisfied that the guilt of the accused had been proven beyond reasonable doubt.[49] Conviction must rest on nothing less than a moral certainty of the guilt of the accused.   The overriding consideration is not whether the court doubts the innocence of the accused but whether it entertains doubt as to his guilt.[50]

Clearly then, the prosecution was not able to establish that the proximate cause of the victim’s death was petitioner’s alleged negligence, if at all, even during the second stage of the incident.

Therefore, petitioner must be acquitted at least on reasonable doubt.   The award of damages must also be deleted pursuant to Article 2179 of the Civil Code which states that when the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages.

About Erineus

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

1 Response to Definition and Elements of Negligence; Negligence and Proximate Cause of the Accident

  1. It ought to possess high-compression rate and most importantly should be user-friendly.
    * Avoid the temptation to offer your opinion or advice.

    On top of the fact that the worlds in which your character has to wander around in are so ridiculously
    huge that you could literally get lost, they are all dark and gloomy too.

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