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Vasquez vs.

Court of Appeals (138 SCRA 553)

Facts:

MV Pioneer Cebu left the port of Manila and bounded for Cebu. Its officers were aware of the upcoming
typhoon Klaring that is already building up somewhere in Mindanao. There being no typhoon signals on
their route, they proceeded with their voyage. When they reached the island of Romblon, the captain
decided not to seek shelter since the weather was still good. They continued their journey until the vessel
reached the island of Tanguingui, while passing through the island the weather suddenly changed and
heavy rains fell. Fearing that they might hit Chocolate island due to zero visibility, the captain ordered to
reverse course the vessel so that they could weather out the typhoon by facing the strong winds and
waves. Unfortunately, the vessel struck a reef near Malapascua Island, it sustained a leak and eventually
sunk. The parents of the passengers who were lost due to that incident filed an action against Filipinas
Pioneer Lines for damages. The defendant pleaded force majeure but the Trial Court ruled in favor of the
plaintiff. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, it reversed the decision of the lower stating that the incident
was a force majeure and absolved the defendants from liability.

Issue: Whether of not Filipinas Pioneer Lines is liable for damages and presumed to be at fault for the
death of its passenger?

Held: The Supreme Court held the Filipinas Pioneer Lines failed to observe that extraordinary diligence
required of them by law for the safety of the passengers transported by them with due regard for all
necessary circumstance and unnecessarily exposed the vessel to tragic mishap. Despite knowledge of
the fact that there was a typhoon, they still proceeded with their voyage relying only on the forecast that
the typhoon would weaken upon crossing the island of Samar. The defense of caso fortuito is untenable.
To constitute caso fortuito to exempt a person from liability it necessary that the event must be
independent from human will, the occurrence must render it impossible for the debtor to fulfill his
obligation in a normal manner, the obligor must be free from any participation or aggravation to the injury
of the creditor. Filipina Pioneer Lines failed to overcome that presumption o fault or negligence that arises
in cases of death or injuries to passengers.

Under the circumstances, while, indeed, the typhoon was an inevitable occurrence, yet, having been kept
posted on the course of the typhoon by weather bulletins at intervals of six hours, the captain and crew
were well aware of the risk they were taking as they hopped from island to island from Romblon up to
Tanguingui. They held frequent conferences, and oblivious of the utmost diligence required of very
cautious persons, 9 they decided to take a calculated risk. In so doing, they failed to observe that
extraordinary diligence required of them explicitly by law for the safety of the passengers transported by
them with due regard for an circumstances 10 and unnecessarily exposed the vessel and passengers to
the tragic mishap. They failed to overcome that presumption of fault or negligence that arises in cases of
death or injuries to passengers. 1