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YHT Realty Corporation et al vs. CA G.R. No.

126780 February 17, 2005 2nd Divisi

on J. Tinga FACTS: Respondent McLoughlin would always stay at Tropicana Hotel ev
ery time he is here in the Philippines and would rent a safety deposit box. The
safety deposit box could only be opened through the use of 2 keys, one of which
is given to the registered guest, and the other remaining in the possession of t
he management of the hotel. McLoughlin allegedly placed the following in his saf
ety deposit box 2 envelopes containing US Dollars, one envelope containing Austr
alian Dollars, Letters, credit cards, bankbooks and a checkbook. On 12 December
1987, before leaving for a brief trip, McLoughlin took some items from the safet
y box which includes the ff: envelope containing Five Thousand US Dollars (US$5,
000.00), the other envelope containing Ten Thousand Australian Dollars (AUS$10,0
00.00), his passports and his credit cards. The other items were left in the dep
osit box. Upon arrival, he found out that a few dollars were missing and the jew
elry he bought was likewise missing. Eventually, he confronted Lainez and Paiyam
who admitted that Tan opened the safety deposit box with the key assigned to hi
m. McLoughlin went up to his room where Tan was staying and confronted her. Tan
admitted that she had stolen McLouglins key and was able to open the safety depos
it box with the assistance of Lopez, Paiyam and Lainez. Lopez also told McLoughl
in that Tan stole the key assigned to McLouglin while the latter was asleep. McL
oughlin insisted that it must be the hotel who must assume responsibility for th
e loss he suffered. Lopez refused to accept responsibility relying on the condit
ions for renting the safety deposit box entitled Undertaking For the Use of Safet
y Deposit Box ISSUE: WON the "Undertaking for the Use of Safety Deposit Box" admi
ttedly executed by private respondent is null and void. HELD: YES Article 2003 w
as incorporated in the New Civil Code as an expression of public policy precisel
y to apply to situations such as that presented in this case. The hotel business
like the common carriers business is imbued with public interest. Catering to th
e public, hotelkeepers are bound to provide not only lodging for hotel guests an
d security to their persons and belongings. The twin duty constitutes the essenc
e of the business. The law in turn does not allow such duty to the public to be
negated or diluted by any contrary stipulation in so-called undertakings that ordi
narily appear in prepared forms imposed by hotel keepers on guests for their sig
nature. In an early case (De Los Santos v. Tan Khey), CA ruled that to hold hote
lkeepers or innkeeper liable for the effects of their guests, it is not necessar
y that they be actually delivered to the innkeepers or their employees. It is en
ough that such effects are within the hotel or inn. With greater reason should t
he liability of the hotelkeeper be enforced when the missing items are taken wit
hout the guests knowledge and consent from a safety deposit box provided by the h
otel itself, as in this case. Paragraphs (2) and (4) of the undertaking manifestly
contravene Article 2003, CC for they allow Tropicana to be released from liabil
ity arising from any loss in the contents and/or use of the safety deposit box f
or any cause whatsoever. Evidently, the undertaking was intended to bar any clai
m against Tropicana for any loss of the contents of the safety deposit box wheth
er or not negligence was incurred by Tropicana or its employees. The New Civil C
ode is explicit that the responsibility of the hotel-keeper shall extend to loss
of, or injury to, the personal property of the guests even if caused by servant
s or employees of the keepers of hotels or inns as well as by strangers, except
as it may proceed from any force majeure.41 It is the loss through force majeure
that may spare the hotel-keeper from liability. In the case at bar, there is no
showing that the act of the thief or robber was done with the use of arms or th
rough an irresistible force to qualify the same as force majeure.