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C. The Tortfeasor

1. Direct tortfeasor

a. Natural persons

1) Personal liability

As a general rule, one is only responsible for his own act or omission. Thus, a person will generally be held liable only for the torts committed by himself and not by another. (Filcar Transport Services v. Espinas, G.R. No. 174156, 20 June 2012)

2) Vicarious liability; Respondeat Superior

The obligation to indemnify another for damage caused by one’s act or omission is imposed upon the tortfeasor himself, i.e., the person who committed the negligent act or omission. The law, however, provides for exceptions when it makes certain persons liable for the act or omission of another. (Filcar Transport Services v. Espinas, G.R. No. 174156, 20 June 2012)

NB: See No. 2 below for mode discussions.

b. Juridical persons

1) Corporation

Our jurisprudence is wanting as to the definite scope of “corporate tort.” Essentially, “tort” consists in the violation of a right given or the omission of a duty imposed by law. Simply stated, tort is a breach of a legal duty. (Naguiat v. NLRC, G.R. No. 116123, 13 March 1997)

a) Shareholder’s liability

GENERAL RULE: Applying the general doctrine of separate juridical personality, which provides that a corporation has a legal personality separate and distinct from that of people comprising it., stockholders of a corporation enjoy the principle of limited liability: the corporate debt is not the debt of the stockholder. Thus, being an officer or a stockholder of a corporation does not make one’s property the property also of the corporation. (Bustos v. Millians Shoe, Inc., G.R. No. 185024, 04 April 2017)

EXCEPTION: Stockholder who ctively engaged in the management or operation of the business should be held personally liable. (Ibid.)

Article 283 of the Labor Code mandates the employer to grant separation pay to employees in case of closure or cessation of operations of establishment or undertaking not due to serious business losses or financial reverses, which is the condition obtaining at bar. CFTI failed to comply with this law-imposed duty or obligation. Consequently, its stockholder who was actively engaged in the management or operation of the business should be held personally liable. (Ibid.)

b. LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS

1) Governmental functions

The State or a government agency performing governmental functions may be held liable for tort committed by its employees only when it acts through a special agent. (Sps. Fontanilla v. Maliaman, En Banc, G.R. Nos. L-55963 & 61045, 27 February 1991)

2) Corporate or proprietary acts

A municipality is not exempt from liability for the negligent performance of its corporate or proprietary or business functions. In the administration of its patrimonial property, it is to be regarded as a private corporation or individual so far as its liability to third persons on contract or in tort is concerned. Its contracts, validly entered into, may be enforced and damages may be collected from it for the torts of its officers or agents within the scope of their employment in precisely the same manner and to the same extent as those of private corporations or individuals. As to such matters the principles of respondeat superior applies. It is for these purposes that the municipality is made liable to suits in the courts. (Mendoza v. De Leon, En Banc, G.R. No. L-9596, 11 February 1916)

3) Public roads, streets, bridges, buildings, and other public works

Provinces, cities and municipalities shall be liable for damages for the death of, or injuries suffered by, any person by reason of the defective condition of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings, and other public works under their control or supervision. (Art. 2189, Ibid.)

2. Persons made responsible for others

a. CONCEPT

The obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible. (Art. 2180, Ibid.)

1) Parents’ responsibility for their minor children

The father and, in case of his death or incapacity, the mother, are responsible for the damages caused by the minor children who live in their company. (Paragraph 2, Art. 2180, Ibid.)

2) Guardians’ responsibility for their minors and incapacitated persons

Guardians are liable for damages caused by the minors or incapacitated persons who are under their authority and live in their company. (Paragraph 3, Art. 2180, Ibid.)

3) Owners and managers’ responsibility for their employees

The owners and managers of an establishment or enterprise are likewise responsible for damages caused by their employees in the service of the branches in which the latter are employed or on the occasion of their functions. (Paragraph 4, Art. 2180, Ibid.)

4) Employers’ responsibility for their employees and household helpers

Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks, even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry. (Paragraph 5, Art. 2180, Ibid.)

Although the employer is not the actual tortfeasor, the law makes him vicariously liable on the basis of the civil law principle of pater familias for failure to exercise due care and vigilance over the acts of one;s subordinates to prevent damage to another. However, the employer may invoke the defense that he observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage. (Filcar Transport Services v. Espinas, supra.)

a) To rebut the presumption of negligence

To rebut the presumption of negligence, the employer must prove two things:

1) That it had exercised due diligence in the selection of the employees; and

2) That after hiring them, the employer had exercised due diligence in supervising them. (Reyes v. Doctolero, G.R. No. 185597, 02 August 2017)

(1) Concept of due diligence

Due diligence in the supervision of employees includes the formulation of suitable rules and regulations for the guidance of employees and the issuance of proper instructions intended for the protection of the public and persons with whom the employer has relations through his or its employees and the imposition of necessary disciplinary measures upon employees in case of breach or as may be warranted to ensure the performance of acts indispensable to the business of and beneficial to their employer. To this, we add that actual implementation and monitoring of consistent compliance with said rules should be the constant concern of the employer, acting through dependable supervisors who should regularly report on their supervisory functions. (Metro Manila Transit Corporation v. CA, G.R. No. 104408, 21 Junee 1993)

b) For employee-driver

In order that the owner of a vehicle, the employer, may be considered as having exercised all diligence of a good father of a family, he should not have been satisfied with the mere possession of a professional driver’s license; he should have carefully examined the applicant for employment as to his qualifications, his experience and record of service. These steps appellant failed to observe; he has therefore, failed to exercise all due diligence required of a good father of a family in the choice or selection of driver. (Campo v. Camarote, G.R. No. L-9147, 29 November 1956)

5) State’s responsibility for its special agent

The State is responsible in like manner when it acts through a special agent; but not when the damage has been caused by the official to whom the task done properly pertains, in which case what is provided in Article 2176 shall be applicable. (Paragraph 6, Art. 2180, Ibid.)

6) Teachers or Heads’ responsibility for their pupils, students, or apprentices

Lastly, teachers or heads of establishments of arts and trades shall be liable for damages caused by their pupils and students or apprentices, so long as they remain in their custody. (Paragraph 7, Art. 2180, Ibid.)

7) Registered owner of a vehicle for driver – provided owner was not in vehicle

In motor vehicle mishaps, where the owner was not in the motor vehicle, the owner is liable for the driver. (Paragraph 2, Art. 2184 cf. Article 2180, Ibid.)

In so far as third persons are concerned, the registered owner of the motor vehicle is the employer of the negligent driver, and the actual employer is considered merely as an agent of such owner. (Filcar Transport Services v. Espinas, supra.)

a) Regardless of previous sale

Regardless of sales made of a motor vehicle, the registered owner is the lawful operator insofar as the public and third persons are concerned; consequently, it is directly and primarily responsible for the consequences of its operation. (Ibid.)

b) Regardless of employer-employee relationship

Whether there is an employer-employee relationship between the registered owner and the driver is irrelevant in determining the liability of the registered owner who the law holds primarily and directly responsible for any accident, injury or death caused by the operation of the vehicle in the streets and highways. (Ibid.)

c) Presumption of negligence against the driver

It is disputably presumed that a driver was negligent, if he had been found guilty or reckless driving or violating traffic regulations at least twice within the next preceding two months. (Art. 2184, Civil Code)

Unless there is proof to the contrary, it is presumed that a person driving a motor vehicle has been negligent if at the time of the mishap, he was violating any traffic regulation. (Art. 2185, Ibid.)

b. DEFENSE OF PERSONS MADE LIABLE FOR OTHERS

The responsibility treated of in this article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage. (Paragraph 8, Art. 2180, Ibid.)

c. RIGHT TO REIMBURSEMENT

1) By payor

Whoever pays for the damage caused by his dependents or employees may recover from the latter what he has paid or delivered in satisfaction of the claim. (Art. 2181, Ibid.)

2) By minor’s or insane peron’s property if no parent or guardian

If the minor or insane person causing damage has no parents or guardian, the minor or insane person shall be answerable with his own property in an action against him where a guardian ad litem shall be appointed. (Art. 2182, Ibid.)

3) By possessor or user of animal

The possessor of an animal or whoever may make use of the same is responsible for the damage which it may cause, although it may escape or be lost. This responsibility shall cease only in case the damage should come from force majeure or from the fault of the person who has suffered damage. (Art. 2183, Ibid.)

3. Joint tortfeasors

a. CONCEPT

The responsibility of two or more persons who are liable for quasi-delict is solidary. (Art. 2194, Ibid.)

There is no contribution between joint tortfeasors whose liability is solidary since both of them are liable for the total damage. Where the concurrent or successive negligent acts or omissions of two or more persons, although acting independently, are in combination the direct and proximate cause of a single injury to a third person, it is impossible to determine in what proportion each contributed to the injury and either of them is responsible for the whole injury. Where their concurring negligence resulted in injury or damage to a third party, they become joint tortfeasors and are solidarily liable for the resulting damage under Article 2194 101 of the Civil Code. (Far Eastern Shipping Company v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 130068, 01 October 1998)

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