(Question XVI, Civil Law, 2017 Bar Exam)
Jovencio operated a school bus to ferry his two sons and five of their schoolmates from their houses to their school, and back. The parents of the five schoolmates paid for the service. One morning, Porfirio, the driver, took a short cut on the way to school because he was running late, and drove across an unmanned railway crossing. At the time, Porfirio was wearing earphones because he loved to hear loud music while driving. As he crossed the railway tracks, a speeding PNR train loudly blared its horn to warn Porfirio, but the latter did not hear the horn because of the loud music. The train inevitably rammed into the school bus. The strong impact of the collision between the school bus and the train resulted in the instant death of one of the classmates of Jovencio’s younger son.
The parents of the fatality sued Jovencio for damages based on culpa contractual alleging that Jovencio was a common carrier; Porfirio for being negligent; and the PNR for damages based on culpa aquiliana.
Jovencio denied being a common carrier. He insisted that he had exercised the diligence of a good father of a family in supervising Porfirio, claiming that the latter had had no history of negligence or recklessness before the fatal accident.
(a) Did his operation of the school bus service for a limited clientele render Jovencio a common carrier? Explain your answer. (3%)
(b) In accordance with your answer to the preceding question, state the degree of diligence to be observed by Jovencio, and the consequences thereof. Explain your answer. (3%)
(c) Assuming that the fatality was a minor of only 15 years of age who had no earning capacity at the time of his death because he was still a student in high school, and the trial court is minded to award indemnity, what may possibly be the legal and factual justifications for the award of loss of earning capacity? Explain your answer. (4%)
(a) Yes. Answer
Under jurisprudence, operators of a school bus service are common carriers as they are: (a) engaged in transporting passengers generally as a business, not just as a casual occupation; (b) undertaking to carry passengers over established roads by the method by which the business was conducted; and (c) transporting students for a fee. They are considered common carriers despite having a limited clientele and being an unregistered enterprise. Rule
In the case at bar, Jovencio as an operator or a school bus service is considered as a common carrier. He is engaged in transporting passengers as a business. He undertakes to carry passengers over established roads. Further, he transports the students for a fee. That he has a limited clientele and it is an unregistered enterprise are irrelevant. Apply
Thus, Jovencio’s operation of the school bus service for a limited clientele rendered him a common carrier. Conclusion
(b) Under the Civil Code, a common carrier is required to observe extraordinary diligence. A common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with a due regard for all the circumstances.
Non-observance of extraordinary diligence renders a common carrier liable for torts and damages.
(c) Under jurisprudence, loss of earning capacity of a minor has been recognized and computed at prevailing minimum wage at the time of death. Compensation of this nature is awarded not for loss of time or earnings but for loss of the deceased’s power or ability to earn money. In such a case, the heirs shall be entitled to the award.
In the case at bar, if the incident resulted in the death of a minor of only 15 years of age, his heirs may still be entitled to loss of earning capacity based on prevailing minimum wage as provided for by jurisprudence.
(Notice: The suggested answers simulate those that a bar examinee may provide, and thus specific citations are not provided. Notwithstanding, in the reviewers, the bar exam question is answered under the appropriate topic which discusses the concepts and principles, as well as provide for specific citations. Accordingly, please refer to it on the reviewer or in the Library.)
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