Sunday, February 6, 2011

CASE DIGEST (Transportation Law): Aboitiz vs. CA

(G.R. No. 84458 November 6, 1989)


Anacleto Viana boarded the vessel M/V Antonia, owned by Aboitiz Shipping Corporation, at the port at San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, bound for Manila. After said vessel had landed, the Pioneer Stevedoring Corporation took over the exclusive control of the cargoes loaded on said vessel pursuant to the Memorandum of Agreement between Pioneer and petitioner Aboitiz.

The crane owned by Pioneer was placed alongside the vessel and one (1) hour after the passengers of said vessel had disembarked, it started operation by unloading the cargoes from said vessel. While the crane was being operated, Anacleto Viana who had already disembarked from said vessel obviously remembering that some of his cargoes were still loaded in the vessel, went back to the vessel, and it was while he was pointing to the crew of the said vessel to the place where his cargoes were loaded that the crane hit him, pinning him between the side of the vessel and the crane. He was thereafter brought to the hospital where he later expired three (3) days thereafter.

Private respondents Vianas filed a complaint for damages against petitioner for breach of contract of carriage. Aboitiz denied responsibility contending that at the time of the accident, the vessel was completely under the control of respondent Pioneer Stevedoring Corporation as the exclusive stevedoring contractor of Aboitiz, which handled the unloading of cargoes from the vessel of Aboitiz.


Whether or not Aboitiz is negligent and is thus liable for the death.



x x x [T]he victim Anacleto Viana guilty of contributory negligence, but it was the negligence of Aboitiz in prematurely turning over the vessel to the arrastre operator for the unloading of cargoes which was the direct, immediate and proximate cause of the victim's death.

The rule is that the relation of carrier and passenger continues until the passenger has been landed at the port of destination and has left the vessel owner's dock or premises. 11 Once created, the relationship will not ordinarily terminate until the passenger has, after reaching his destination, safely alighted from the carrier's conveyance or had a reasonable opportunity to leave the carrier's premises. All persons who remain on the premises a reasonable time after leaving the conveyance are to be deemed passengers, and what is a reasonable time or a reasonable delay within this rule is to be determined from all the circumstances, and includes a reasonable time to see after his baggage and prepare for his departure. 12 The carrier-passenger relationship is not terminated merely by the fact that the person transported has been carried to his destination if, for example, such person remains in the carrier's premises to claim his baggage.

It is apparent from the foregoing that what prompted the Court to rule as it did in said case is the fact of the passenger's reasonable presence within the carrier's premises. That reasonableness of time should be made to depend on the attending circumstances of the case, such as the kind of common carrier, the nature of its business, the customs of the place, and so forth, and therefore precludes a consideration of the time element per se without taking into account such other factors. It is thus of no moment whether in the cited case of La Mallorca there was no appreciable interregnum for the passenger therein to leave the carrier's premises whereas in the case at bar, an interval of one (1) hour had elapsed before the victim met the accident. The primary factor to be considered is the existence of a reasonable cause as will justify the presence of the victim on or near the petitioner's vessel. We believe there exists such a justifiable cause.

It is of common knowledge that, by the very nature of petitioner's business as a shipper, the passengers of vessels are allotted a longer period of time to disembark from the ship than other common carriers such as a passenger bus. With respect to the bulk of cargoes and the number of passengers it can load, such vessels are capable of accommodating a bigger volume of both as compared to the capacity of a regular commuter bus. Consequently, a ship passenger will need at least an hour as is the usual practice, to disembark from the vessel and claim his baggage whereas a bus passenger can easily get off the bus and retrieve his luggage in a very short period of time. Verily, petitioner cannot categorically claim, through the bare expedient of comparing the period of time entailed in getting the passenger's cargoes, that the ruling in La Mallorca is inapplicable to the case at bar. On the contrary, if we are to apply the doctrine enunciated therein to the instant petition, we cannot in reason doubt that the victim Anacleto Viana was still a passenger at the time of the incident. When the accident occurred, the victim was in the act of unloading his cargoes, which he had every right to do, from petitioner's vessel. As earlier stated, a carrier is duty bound not only to bring its passengers safely to their destination but also to afford them a reasonable time to claim their baggage.

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