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Opinion

Vicarious liability

- Jose C. Sison - The Philippine Star

Who is liable for the loss of a vehicle parked in a leased parking space, the owner of the leased premises or the security agency and its guards hired to guard the premises? This is answered in this case of the spouses Ben and Lina.

Ben and Lina were operators of six jeepney units. For more than 20 years they were parking their vehicles every night inside the premises of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP) for a monthly fee of P300 per vehicle. To secure the premises, the BSP hired a Security Agency (AIB) under a Guard Service Contract. So the spouses also gave instructions to the security guards of AIB to release the vehicles only to their authorized drivers.

One morning however the spouses discovered that one of their units was missing. When they asked the security guards on duty (SGs Rey and Gerry) who took out the vehicle from the compound, the latter told them that “a male person who looked familiar” and who had the key to the vehicle took it from the compound.  Rey and Gerry claimed that since the person had the key to the vehicle, they thought that he was authorized to get the vehicle.  The jeepney unit was never recovered.

Despite demands by the spouses for a conference to settle the matter, both BSP and AIB, refused. Thus they filed a case for damages against the BSP, AIB, and security guards Rey and Gerry praying for the payment of the value of the lost vehicle and its accessories as actual damages, as well as moral and exemplary damages, and attorney’s fees. The spouses contended that all the respondents should be held solidarily or equally liable for the loss. Are all of them liable?

No. The Supreme Court held that only AIB and the two security guards, and not BSP, are liable for the loss of the vehicle for the following reasons:

First, the proximate cause of the loss was the negligence of security guards Rey and Gerry, who, despite the instruction that only authorized drivers are allowed to take the vehicles, allowed an unknown person to take the vehicle. The BSP is not the employer of the security guards, but it is AIB.  Being the employer of the security guards, AIB is vicariously liable under Article 2180 of the Civil Code, which provides that an employer is also liable for the damages caused by its employees acting within the scope of their assigned tasks;   

Second, under the principle of Relativity of Contracts recognized in our Civil Code, the Guard Service Contract between AIB and BSP affects only the parties in the contract. While the guard service contract provides that AIB will be liable for any loss of any property within the BSP premises, still the contract does not provide for an express liability by the BSP towards third persons (such as the spouses) even if such loss happens within its premises;

Third, BSP cannot be held liable since its contract with the spouses is one of lease and not a deposit or a contract of insurance. BSP, as the lessor, is under no obligation either to take care and/or protect the spouses’ vehicles or provide insurance for them; and

Lastly, for more than 20 years, the spouses have not objected or have accepted the caution in the parking ticket of the BSP that “management shall not be responsible for loss of vehicle or any of its accessories or article left therein”. Because of the absence of objection despite the passage of time, the stipulation in the parking ticket has become the law between the spouses and the BSP, and such law must prevail.(Spouses Benjamin and Sonia Mamaril vs. The Boy Scout of the Philippines, AIB Security Agency, Inc., Cesario Peña, and Vicente Gaddi, G.R. No. 179382, January 14, 2013).

Note: Books containing compilation of my articles in Labor Law Vol. I and Criminla Law Vols. I and II are now available at 403 Sunrise Condominium 226, Ortigas Ave. Greenhills S.J. Tel 7249445. Our email address: [email protected]

 

AIB

BEN AND LINA

BSP

CIVIL CODE

GUARD SERVICE CONTRACT

GUARDS

LIABLE

REY AND GERRY

SECURITY

SPOUSES

VEHICLE

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