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D. Proximate Cause

1. Concept

When the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. (Art. 2179, Ibid.)

Proximate cause – is that which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any new cause, produces an event, and without which the event would not have occurred. (Abrogar v. Cosmos Bottling Company, G.R. No. 164749, 15 March 2017)

More comprehensively, the proximate legal cause is that acting first and producing the injury, either immediately or by setting other events in motion, all constituting a natural and continuous chain of events, each having a close causal connection with its immediate predecessor, the final event in the chain immediately effecting the injury as a natural and probable result of the cause which first acted, under such circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should, as an ordinarily prudent and intelligent person, have reasonable ground to expect at the moment of his act or default that an injury to some person might probably result therefrom. (Vda. de Bataclan v. Medina, En Banc, G.R. No. L-10126, 22 October 1957)

a. DISTINGUISHED FROM CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE

If plaintiff’s negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury being the defendant’s lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded. (Art. 2179, Ibid.)

b. DISTINGUISHED FROM CONCURRENT CAUSES

As a general rule, that negligence in order to render a person liable need not be the sole cause of an injury. It is sufficient that his negligence, concurring with one or more efficient causes other than piaintiff’s, is the proximate cause of the injury. (Far Eastern Shipping Company v. CA, En Banc, G.R. No. 130068, 01 October 1998)

Accordingly, where several causes combine to produce injuries, a person is not relieved from liability because he is responsible for only one of them, it being sufficient that the negligence of the person charged with injury is an efficient cause without which the injury would not have resulted to as great an extent, and that such cause is not attributable to the person injured. It is no defense to one of the concurrent tortfeasors that the injury would not have resulted from his negligence alone, without the negligence or wrongful acts of the other concurrent rortfeasor. (Ibid.)

Where several causes producing an injury are concurrent and each is an efficient cause without which the injury would not have happened, the injury may be attributed to all or any of the causes and recovery may be had against any or all of the responsible persons although under the circumstances of the case, it may appear that one of them was more culpable, and that the duty owed by them to the injured person was not the same. (Ibid.)

No actor’s negligence ceases to be a proximate cause merely because it does not exceed the negligence of other actors. Each wrongdoer is responsible for the entire result and is liable as though his acts were the sole cause of the injury. (Ibid.)

2. Cause in fact

NB: Cause in fact refers to the actual cause. On the other hand, proximate cause is the legal cause. For instance, the actual cause of a car hitting a person is the driver. However, if the driver was intentionally blinded by a light directed at him by a perpetrator, the proximate cause is the perpetrator.

To hold a defendant liable for torts, it must be clearly shown that he is the proximate cause of the harm done to the plaintiff. The nexus or connection of the cause and effect, between a negligent act and the damage done, must be established by competent evidence. (Abrogar v. Cosmos Bottling Company, supra.)

To be considered the proximate cause of the injury, the negligence need not be the event closest in time to the injury; a cause is still proximate, although farther in time in relation to the injury, if the happening of it set other foreseeable events into motion resulting ultimately in the damage. (Ibd.)

3. Efficient intervening cause

NB: An efficient intervening cause is that which breaks the the natural and continuous sequence invalidating liability.

Proximate cause is defined as any cause that produces injury in a natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, such that the result would not have occurred otherwise. (Agusan del Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. [ANECO] v. Balen, G.R. No. 173146, 25 November 2009)

In a case involving an organizer pinning liability on the jeepney driver as an efficient intervening cause for the death of a marathoner, the Court held the organizer liable. In not conducting the race in a road blocked off from vehicular traffic, and in not properly coordinating the volunteer personnel manning the marathon route effectively set the stage for the injury complained of. An examination of the records in accordance with the foregoing concepts supports the conclusions that the negligence of Intergames was the proximate cause of the death of Rommel; and that the negligence of the jeepney driver was not an efficient intervening cause. (Abrogar v. Cosmos Bottling Company, G.R. No. 164749, 15 March 2017)

4. Cause as distinguished from condition

NB: A cause is an antecedent. On the other hand, a condition is the required set of circumstances for an event to happen.

5. Last clear chance

a. CONCEPT

The doctrine of last clear chance – provides that where both parties are negligent but the negligent act of one is appreciably later in point of time than that of the other, or where it is impossible to determine whose fault or negligence brought about the occurrence of the incident, the one who had the last clear opportunity to avoid the impending harm but failed to do so, is chargeable with the consequences arising therefrom. (Philippine National Railways Corporation v. Vizcara, G.R. No. 190022, 15 February 2012)

Stated differently, the rule is that the antecedent negligence of a person does not preclude recovery of damages caused by the supervening negligence of the latter, who had the last fair chance to prevent the impending harm by the exercise of due diligence. (Ibid.)

Stated broadly, the doctrine of last clear chance is that the negligence of the plaintiff does not preclude a recovery for the negligence of the defendant where it appears that the defendant, by exercising reasonable care and prudence, might have avoided injurious consequences to the plaintiff notwithstanding the plaintiff’s negligence. (Allied Banking Corporation v. Bank of the Philippine Islands, G.R. No. 188363, 27 February 2013)

Negligence – is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would do, or the doing of something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. (Philippine National Railways v. Brunty, G.R. No. 169891, 02 November 2006)

1) Supervening negligence, discovered peril

The doctrine of “last clear chance” is also referred to, at times, as “supervening negligence” or as “discovered peril”. (LBC Air Cargo, Inc. v. CA, G.R. No. 101683, 23 February 1995)

2) Negligence on defendant, contributory negligence on plaintiff

The doctrine necessarily assumes negligence on the part of the defendant and contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff, and does not apply except upon that assumption. (Allied Banking Corporation v. Bank of the Philippine Islands, supra.)

In situations where the doctrine has been applied, it was defendant’s failure to exercise such ordinary care, having the last clear chance to avoid loss or injury, which was the proximate cause of the occurrence of such loss or injury. (Ibid.)

3) Negligent plaintiff entitled to recovery

Tthe doctrine of last clear chance means that even though a person’s own acts may have placed him in a position of peril, and an injury results, the injured person is entitled to recovery. (Bustamante v. CA, G.R. No. 89880, 06 February 1991)

Last clear chance is a doctrine in the law of torts which states that the contributory negligence of the party injured will not defeat the claim for damages if it is shown that the defendant might, by the exercise of reasonable care and prudence, have avoided the consequences of the negligence of the injured party. In such cases, the person who had the last clear chance to avoid the mishap is considered in law solely responsible for the consequences thereof. (McKee v. IAC, G.R. No. L-68102, 16 July 1992)

4) As applied in accidents

As the doctrine is usually stated, a person who has the last clear chance or opportunity of avoiding an accident, notwithstanding the negligent acts of his opponent or that of a third person imputed to the opponent is considered in law solely responsible for the consequences of the accident. (Ibid.)

a) Applies to owners/drivers of vehicles, but not to passenger and carrier

The principle of “last clear chance” applies in a suit between the owners and drivers of colliding vehicles. It does not arise where a passenger demands responsibility from the carrier to enforce its contractual obligations. For it would be inequitable to exempt the negligent driver of the jeepney and its owners on the ground that the other driver was likewise guilty of negligence. (Ibid.)

5) As applied to non-accident situations

In a case involving a bank: The petitioner bank cannot evade responsibility for the loss by attributing negligence on the part of respondent because, even if it is concurred that the latter was indeed negligent in pre-signing blank checks, the former had the last clear chance to avoid the loss. To reiterate, petitioner’s own operations manager admitted that they could have called up the client for verification or confirmation before honoring the dubious checks. Verily, petitioner had the final opportunity to avert the injury that befell the respondent. Petitioner’s negligence has been undoubtedly established and, thus, pursuant to Art. 1170 of the NCC, it must suffer the consequence of said negligence.(Bank of America NT & SA v. Philippine Racing Club, G.R. No. 150228, 30 July 2009)

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