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G.R. No. 160544.

February 21, 2005

TRIPLE-V vs. FILIPINO MERCHANTS

NATURE OF ACTION:

Petition for Review on Certiorari

MATERIAL FACTS:

On March 2, 1997, at around 2:15 o'clock in the afternoon, a certain Mary Jo-Anne De Asis (De Asis) dined at
petitioner's Kamayan Restaurant. De Asis was using a Mitsubishi Galant Super Saloon Model 1995 with plate
number UBU 955, assigned to her by her employer Crispa Textile Inc. (Crispa). On said date, De Asis availed of
the valet parking service of petitioner and entrusted her car key to petitioner's valet counter. A corresponding
parking ticket was issued as receipt for the car. The car was then parked by petitioner's valet attendant, a certain
Madridano, at the designated parking area. Few minutes later, Madridano noticed that the car was not in its
parking slot and its key no longer in the box where valet attendants usually keep the keys of cars entrusted to
them. The car was never recovered. Thereafter, Crispa filed a claim against its insurer, herein respondent
Filipino Merchants Insurance Company, Inc. (FMICI). Having indemnified Crispa in the amount of P669.500 for
the loss of the subject vehicle, FMICI, as subrogee to Crispa's rights, filed with the RTC at Makati City an action
for damages against petitioner Triple-V Food Services, Inc., thereat docketed as Civil Case No. 98-838 which was
raffled to Branch 148.

In its answer, petitioner argued that the complaint failed to aver facts to support the allegations of recklessness
and negligence committed in the safekeeping and custody of the subject vehicle, claiming that it and its
employees wasted no time in ascertaining the loss of the car and in informing De Asis of the discovery of the
loss. Petitioner further argued that in accepting the complimentary valet parking service, De Asis received a
parking ticket whereunder it is so provided that "[Management and staff will not be responsible for any loss of
or damage incurred on the vehicle nor of valuables contained therein", a provision which, to petitioner's mind, is
an explicit waiver of any right to claim indemnity for the loss of the car (Contract of Adhesion); and that De Asis
knowingly assumed the risk of loss when she allowed petitioner to park her vehicle, adding that its valet parking
service did not include extending a contract of insurance or warranty for the loss of the vehicle.

During trial, petitioner challenged FMICI's subrogation to Crispa's right to file a claim for the loss of the car,
arguing that theft is not a risk insured against under FMICI's Insurance Policy No. PC-5975 for the subject
vehicle.

In a decision dated June 22, 2001, the trial court rendered judgment for respondent FMICI, in favour of plaintiff

Obviously displeased, petitioner appealed to the Court of Appeals reiterating its argument that it was not a
depositary of the subject car and that it exercised due diligence and prudence in the safe keeping of the vehicle,
in handling the car-napping incident and in the supervision of its employees. It further argued that there was no
valid subrogation of rights between Crispa and respondent FMICI.

In a decision dated October 21, 2003,[2]cralaw the Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's appeal and affirmed
the appealed decision of the trial court, thus:

In so dismissing the appeal and affirming the appealed decision, the appellate court agreed with the findings and
conclusions of the trial court that: (a) petitioner was a depositary of the subject vehicle; (b) petitioner was
negligent in its duties as a depositary thereof and as an employer of the valet attendant; and (c) there was a valid
subrogation of rights between Crispa and respondent FMICI.
ISSUES:

Whether or not the establishment (restaurant) is liable for the loss of the petitioner’s vehicle in a valet parking

RULING:
Wherefore, petition is DENIED

RATIO DECIDENDI:

When De Asis entrusted the car in question to petitioners valet attendant while eating at
petitioner's Kamayan Restaurant, the former expected the car's safe return at the end of her meal. Thus,
petitioner was constituted as a depositary of the same car. Petitioner cannot evade liability by arguing that
neither a contract of deposit nor that of insurance, guaranty or surety for the loss of the car was constituted
when De Asis availed of its free valet parking service.

In a contract of deposit, a person receives an object belonging to another with the obligation of safely keeping it
and returning the same.[3]cralaw A deposit may be constituted even without any consideration. It is not
necessary that the depositary receives a fee before it becomes obligated to keep the item entrusted for
safekeeping and to return it later to the depositor.

Specious is petitioner's insistence that the valet parking claim stub it issued to De Asis contains a clear exclusion
of its liability and operates as an explicit waiver by the customer of any right to claim indemnity for any loss of
or damage to the vehicle.

The parking claim stub embodying the terms and conditions of the parking, including that of relieving petitioner
from any loss or damage to the car, is essentially a contract of adhesion, drafted and prepared as it is by the
petitioner alone with no participation whatsoever on the part of the customers, like De Asis, who merely
adheres to the printed stipulations therein appearing. While contracts of adhesion are not void in themselves,
yet this Court will not hesitate to rule out blind adherence thereto if they prove to be one-sided under the
attendant facts and circumstances.[4]cralaw

Hence, and as aptly pointed out by the Court of Appeals, petitioner must not be allowed to use its parking claim
stub's exclusionary stipulation as a shield from any responsibility for any loss or damage to vehicles or to the
valuables contained therein. Here, it is evident that De Asis deposited the car in question with the petitioner as
part of the latter's enticement for customers by providing them a safe parking space within the vicinity of its
restaurant. In a very real sense, a safe parking space is an added attraction to petitioner's restaurant business
because customers are thereby somehow assured that their vehicle are safely kept, rather than parking them
elsewhere at their own risk. Having entrusted the subject car to petitioner's valet attendant, customer De Asis,
like all of petitioner's customers, fully expects the security of her car while at petitioner's premises/designated
parking areas and its safe return at the end of her visit at petitioner's restaurant.

Petitioner's argument that there was no valid subrogation of rights between Crispa and FMICI because theft was
not a risk insured against under FMICI's Insurance Policy No. PC-5975 holds no water.

Insurance Policy No. PC-5975 which respondent FMICI issued to Crispa contains, among others things, the
following item: "Insured's Estimate of Value of Scheduled Vehicle- P800.000".[5]cralaw On the basis of such item,
the trial court concluded that the coverage includes a full comprehensive insurance of the vehicle in case of
damage or loss. Besides, Crispa paid a premium of P10,304 to cover theft. This is clearly shown in the
breakdown of premiums in the same policy.[6]cralaw Thus, having indemnified CRISPA for the stolen car, FMICI,
as correctly ruled by the trial court and the Court of Appeals, was properly subrogated to Crispa's rights against
petitioner, pursuant to Article 2207 of the New Civil Code[7].

Anent the trial court's findings of negligence on the part of the petitioner, which findings were affirmed by the
appellate court, we have consistently ruled that findings of facts of trial courts, more so when affirmed, as here,
by the Court of Appeals, are conclusive on this Court unless the trial court itself ignored, overlooked or
misconstrued facts and circumstances which, if considered, warrant a reversal of the outcome of the
case.[8]cralaw This is not so in the case at bar. For, we have ourselves reviewed the records and find no
justification to deviate from the trial court's findings.

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