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Pedro de Guzman v.

Court of Appeals
G.R. No. L-47822, December 22, 1988

PARTIES:
Pedro de Guzman, petitioner
Court of Appeals and Ernesto Cendana, respondents

BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE CASE:


Breach of the contract to carry
Extraordinary diligence needed over common carriers

BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE FACTS:

Ernesto Cendana was engaged in buying up used bottles and scrap metal in
Pangasinan. Upon gathering sufficient quantities of such scrap material, respondent
would bring such material to Manila for resale. He utilized (2) two six-wheeler trucks
which he owned for the purpose. Upon returning to Pangasinan, he would load his
vehicle with cargo belonging to different merchants to different establishments in
Pangasisnan which respondents charged a freight fee for. Sometime in November 1970,
herein petitioner Pedro de Guzman, a merchant and dealer of General Milk Company
Inc. in Pangasinan contracted with respondent for hauling 750 cartons of milk.
Unfortunately, only 150 cartons made it, as the other 600 cartons were intercepted by
hijackers along Marcos Highway. Hence, petitioners commenced an action against
private respondent. In his defense, respondent argued that he cannot be held liable due
to force majuere, and that he is not a common carrier and hence is not required to
exercise extraordinary diligence. On appeal before the Court of Appeals, Cendana urged
that the trial court had erred in considering him a common carrier; in finding that he
had habitually offered trucking services to the public; in not exempting him from liability
on the ground of force majeure; and in ordering him to pay damages and attorney’s
fees. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court and held that
Cendana had been engaged in transporting return loads of freight “as a casual
occupation — a sideline to his scrap iron business” and not as a common carrier. De
Guzman came to the Supreme Court by way of a Petition for Review.

ISSUES:
1. Is respondent a common carrier?
2. Is the respondent liable for the loss of the cartons of milk due to force majeure?

ARGUMENTS:
1. Herein respondent is considered as a common carrier.

Article 1732 of the New Civil Code avoids any distinction between one whose principal
business activity is the carrying of persons or goods or both and one who does such
carrying only as an ancillary activity. It also avoids a distinction between a person or
enterprise offering transportation services on a regular or scheduled basis and one
offering such services on an occasional, episodic, and unscheduled basis.

2. Respondent is not liable for the value of the undelivered merchandise .

Article 1734 of the Civil Code- The general rule is established by the article that
common carriers are responsible for the loss, destruction or deterioration of the goods
which they carry, unless the same is due to any of the following causes only:
a. Flood, storm, earthquake, lightning or other natural disasters;
b. Act of the public enemy, whether international or civil;
c. Act or omission of the shipper or owner of the goods;
d. Character of the goods or defects in the packing;
e. Order or act of competent public authority.

Applying the above article, we note firstly that the specific cause alleged in the instant
case — the hijacking of the carrier's truck — does not fall within any of the five (5)
categories of exempting causes listed in Article 1734. It would follow; therefore, that the
hijacking of the carrier's vehicle must be dealt with under the provisions of Article 1735,
in other words, the private respondent as common carrier is presumed to have been at
fault or to have acted negligently. This presumption, however, may be overthrown by
proof of extraordinary diligence on the part of private respondent.

Article 1745: Any of the following or similar stipulations shall be considered


unreasonable, unjust and contrary to public policy:
xxx xxx xxx

(5) that the common carrier shall not be responsible for the
acts or omissions of his or its employees;

(6) that the common carrier's liability for acts committed by


thieves, or of robbers who do not act with grave or
irresistible threat, violence or force, is dispensed with or
diminished; and

(7) that the common carrier shall not responsible for the
loss, destruction or deterioration of goods on account of the
defective condition of the car vehicle, ship, airplane or other
equipment used in the contract of carriage. (Emphasis
supplied)

Under Article 1745 (6) above, a common carrier is held responsible — and will not be
allowed to divest or to diminish such responsibility — even for acts of strangers like
thieves or robbers, except where such thieves or robbers in fact acted "with grave or
irresistible threat, violence or force." We believe and so hold that the limits of the duty
of extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods carried are reached where the
goods are lost as a result of a robbery which is attended by "grave or irresistible threat,
violence or force."

The decision of the trial court shows that the armed men who held up the second truck
owned by private respondent acted with grave, if not irresistible, threat, violence or
force, which is an exception of the general rule of Article 1745 (6).

RULING:
The Petition for Review on certiorari is hereby DENIED and the Decision of the Court of
Appeals dated 3 August 1977 is AFFIRMED.

The occurrence of the loss must reasonably be regarded as quite beyond the control of
the common carrier and properly regarded as a fortuitous event. It is necessary to recall
that even common carriers are not made absolute insurers against all risks of travel and
of transport of goods, and are not held liable for acts or events which cannot be
foreseen or are inevitable, provided that they shall have complied with the rigorous
standard of extraordinary diligence.

We, therefore, agree with the result reached by the Court of Appeals that private
respondent Cendana is not liable for the value of the undelivered merchandise which
was lost because of an event entirely beyond private respondent's control.