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HUANG VS. PHILIPPINE HOTELIERS, INC. G.R. No.

180440

Facts: On June 1995, Delia Goldberg (Delia), a registered guest of Dusit Hotel, invited her friend,
Dr. Genevieve L. Huang, for a swim at the hotel‘s pool.

At around 7:00 p.m., the hotel‘s pool attendant informed them that the swimming pool area was
about to be closed. The 2 went to the shower room adjacent to the swimming pool to take a
shower and dress up. When they came out of the bathroom, the entire swimming pool area was
already pitch black and there were the only ones there. The doors were also locked. After some
time, Huang saw a phone behind the lifeguard‘s counter. As she went inside, the wooden
countertop fell on her head and knocked her down almost unconscious. Delia immediately
notified the hotel phone operator of the incident. Not long after, the hotel staff arrived at the
main entrance door of the swimming pool area and gave her an icepack. Huang demanded the
services of the hotel physician. Hotel physician, Dr. Dalumpines, instead of immediately
providing the needed medical assistance, presented a ―Waiver‖ and demanded that it be signed
by Huang, otherwise, the hotel management will not render her any assistance. Huang refused
to do so and left the hotel.

Thereupon, Huang consulted several doctors (7 neuro, 1 optha) because she began experiencing
―on‖ and ―off‖ severe headaches that caused her three sleepless nights. They all said she had
a serious brain injury. In defense, PHI and Dusit denied all the material allegations. According to
them, a sufficient notice on the glass door of the hotel leading to the swimming pool area to
apprise the people, especially the hotel guests, that the swimming pool area is open only from
7am to 7pm. Nevertheless, the lights thereon are kept on until 10:00 p.m. for, (1) security
reasons; (2) housekeeping personnel to do the cleaning of the swimming pool surroundings; and
(3) people doing their exercise routine at the Slimmer‘s World Gym, which was open until 10pm.
Even granting that the lights in the hotel‘s swimming pool area were turned off, it would not
render the area completely dark as the Slimmer‘s World Gym near it was well- illuminated.

Around 7:40pm, Ms. Pearlie (hotel nurse) was informed that there was a guest requiring medical
assistance. She hurriedly went to the pool area. Although Huang looked normal as there was no
indication of any blood or bruise on her head, Ms. Pearlie still asked her if she needed any
medical attention to which she replied that she is a doctor, she was fine and she did not need
any medical attention. Instead, requested for a hirudoid cream to which Ms. Pearlie acceded. Dr.
Dalumpines came to check Huang's condition. Huang insisted that she was fine and that the
hirudoid cream was enough. Dr. Dalumpines requested Huang to execute a handwritten
certification regarding the incident that occurred that night. An X-Ray test was also suggested to
Huang but she replied that it was not necessary. She also refused further medical attention. On
Aug 1996, Huang filed a complaint for damages against respondents. The trial court dismissed
the Complaint for lack of merit. On appeal, Huang belatedly raises the defense on breach of
contract. She maintains that that an implied contract existed between them in view of the fact
that the hotel guest status extends to all those who avail of its services- its patrons and invitees.

The CA affirmed the TC‘s decision. MR denied. Hence, this Petition for certiorari under Rule 45.
She also avows that the doctrines of res ipsa loquitur and respondeat superior are applicable in
this case. It was an accident caused by the fact that the hotel staff was not present to lift the
heavy counter top for Huang as is normally expected of them because they negligently locked
the main entrance door of the hotel‘s swimming pool area.
Issue: Whether respondents PHI and Dusit are liable to Dr. Huang.

Held: NO. Initially, Huang sued respondents mainly on account of their negligence but not on any
breach of contract. Presently, she claims that her cause of action can be based both on
quasidelict and breach of contract. A perusal of the complaint evidently shows that her cause
of action was based solely on quasidelict (negligence). It is evident from the complaint and
from her open court testimony that the reliance was on the alleged tortious acts committed
against her by respondents, through their management and staff.

In quasidelict, there is no presumption of negligence and it is incumbent upon the injured party
to prove the negligence of the defendant, otherwise, the former‘s complaint will be dismissed. In
a breach of contract, negligence is presumed so long as it can be proved that there was breach
of the contract and the burden is on the defendant to prove that there was no negligence in the
carrying out of the terms of the contract; the rule of respondeat superior is followed. It is now
too late to raise the said argument for the first time before the SC without causing injustice.

As Huang‘s cause of action is based on quasi-delict, it is incumbent upon her to prove the
presence of the following requisites before respondents PHI and Dusit can be held liable, to wit:
(a) damages suffered by the plaintiff; (b) fault or negligence of the defendant, or some other
person for whose acts he must respond; and (c) the connection of cause and effect between the
fault or negligence of the defendant and the damages incurred by the plaintiff.

Further, since her case is for quasidelict, the negligence or fault should be clearly established as
it is the basis of her action. The burden of proof is upon her.

Second element Absent:In this case, Huang utterly failed to prove the alleged negligence of
respondents. Other than her self-serving testimony that all the lights in the hotel‘s swimming
pool area were shut off and the door was locked, which allegedly prompted her to find a way out
and in doing so a folding wooden counter top fell on her head causing her injury, no other
evidence was presented to substantiate the same. Even her own companion during the night of
the accident inside the hotel‘s swimming pool area was never presented to corroborate her
allegations.

On the other hand, the witnesses presented by the respondents positively declared that it has
been a normal practice of the hotel management not to put off the lights until 10pm. to allow
the housekeepers to do the cleaning of the swimming pool surroundings, including the toilets
and counters. There is a remote possibility that the hotel‘s swimming pool area was in complete
darkness as the aforesaid gym was then open until 10pm, and the lights radiate to the hotel‘s
swimming pool area.

Ergo, she cannot fault the Hotel for the injury she allegedly suffered because she herself did not
heed the warning at the pool to the effect that it was only open from 7:00 to 7:00 P.M. Thus,
when the her own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, she then
cannot recover damages.

Even Huang‘s assertion of negligence on the part of respondents in not rendering medical
assistance to her is preposterous.Her own Complaint affirmed that respondents afforded
medical assistance to her after she met the unfortunate accident inside the hotel‘s swimming
pool facility. Moreover, the Hotel shouldered the expenses for the MRI services at the
MakatiMed.
Res Ipsa Loquitur & Respondeat Superior: With regard to Huang‘s contention that the principles
of res ipsa loquitur and respondeat superior are applicable in this case, this Court holds
otherwise.

Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase which literally means ―the thing or the transaction speaks for
itself.‖ It relates to the fact of an injury that sets out an inference to the cause thereof or
establishes the plaintiff‘s prima facie case. The doctrine finds no application if there is direct
proof of absence or presence of negligence. In the case at bench, even granting that
respondent's staff negligently turned off the lights and locked the door, the folding wooden
counter top would still not fall on Huang's head had she not lifted the same. Records showed
that she lifted the said folding wooden counter top that eventually fell and hit her head. Doctrine
of respondeat superior finds no application in the absence of any showing that the employees of
respondents were negligent. Since in this case, the trial court and the CA found no negligence on
the part of the employees of respondents, thus, the latter cannot also be held liable for
negligence. With the foregoing, the following were clearly established, to wit: (1) petitioner
stayed in the hotel‘s swimming pool facility beyond its closing hours; (2) she lifted the folding
wooden counter top that eventually hit her head; and (3) respondents extended medical
assistance to her. As such, no negligence can be attributed either to or to their staff and/or
management.

Third element: On the issue on whether Huang's debilitating and permanent injuries were the
result of the accident she suffered at the hotel‘s swimming pool area, the Court holds that there
is no cogent reason to depart from the lower court's findings. (1)Huang had a past medical
history which might have been the cause of her recurring brain injury. (2) The findings of Dr.
Perez did not prove a causal relation between the 11 June 1995 accident and the brain damage
suffered by Huang. Dr. Perez himself testified that the symptoms being experienced might have
been due to factors other than the head trauma she allegedly suffered. (3)Dr. Sanchez‘s
testimony was hearsay.(4)Medical reports/evaluations/certifications issued by myriads of
doctors whom petitioner sought for examination or treatment were neither identified nor
testified to by those who issued them. Being deemed as hearsay, they cannot be given probative
value. All told, in the absence of negligence on the part of respondents as well as their
management and staff, they cannot be made liable to pay for the millions of damages prayed for.
Since respondents arc not liable, it necessarily follows that First Lepanto cannot also be made
liable under the contract of Insurance.