G.R. No. L-20916-17. December 23, 1964 (Case Brief / Digest)

Title: Pangasinan Transportation Co., Inc. (PANTRANCO) vs. Hon. Gregorio A. Legaspi et al.

In Pangasinan, two civil cases (No. A-247 and No. A-248) were filed against the Pangasinan Transportation Co., Inc. (Pantranco) for recovery of damages for the deaths resulting from a bus collision. The collision involved two buses operated by Pantranco, resulting in the deaths of Aurora Breguera, Welly Pua, and Memia Chua. The plaintiffs, Pua Pian alongside his children (in Civil Case No. A-217), and Chua Teck with Crispina Breguera (in Civil Case No. A-248), alleged that the bus driver’s gross negligence caused the collision. During the trial, the respondents requested the Court to compel Pantranco to produce its financial statements from 1959 to 1961 for inspection. Pantranco opposed this, arguing that its financial capacity was irrelevant to the issue of negligence. The trial court ordered Pantranco to comply, leading Pantranco to file a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court, alleging abuse of discretion by the lower court.

1. Is the financial standing of a defendant relevant in determining damages in an action for breach of contract of carriage?
2. Does requesting the production of a company’s financial documents for the purpose of determining damages constitute an unjust “fishing expedition”?

Court’s Decision:
The Supreme Court dismissed the petition for certiorari by Pantranco and dissolved the writ of preliminary injunction. It ruled that the financial capacity of a defendant is indeed relevant in ascertaining the amount of damages in cases of death caused by breach of contract of carriage. The Court emphasized that, while the liability of the carrier does not depend on its financial capacity, its ability to pay a greater amount of indemnity can be considered. Documentary evidence pertaining to financial capacity falls within the scope of what can be requested under Rule 27 of the Revised Rules of Court, provided these documents are material to the case and not privileged.

The Court reiterated the doctrine that in determining damages for death caused by breach of contract of carriage, the financial capacity of the common carrier can be considered to fix a reasonable amount of compensation. This supports the principle that damages, while primarily compensatory, can be adjusted based on both the severity of the defendant’s neglection and their ability to provide reparation.

Class Notes:
– In actions for damages arising from breach of contract of carriage,

1. Financial documents of the defendant can be subject to inspection if relevant to determining damages.
2. The minimum indemnity for death is fixed, but courts may adjust the amount based on various factors, including the defendant’s financial capacity.
3. Rule 27 of the Revised Rules of Court permits the production for inspection of documents that are neither privileged nor irrelevant to the matter involved in the action.

Relevant Legal Provisions:
– Article 2206 of the Civil Code establishes the minimum indemnity for death resulting from a crime or quasi-delict.
– Commonwealth Act No. 284 underlines the consideration of the defendant’s financial capacity in determining damages for death.
– Rule 27 of the Revised Rules of Court states the conditions under which a party may request the production of documents.

Historical Background:
The context of this case highlights the evolving understanding of compensatory damages within Philippine jurisprudence, especially concerning the financial capacity of defendants in civil liability cases. The decision reflects a broader legal principle that, beyond mere reparation, damages can serve a corrective purpose tailored to the specifics of each case, including the defendant’s ability to respond financially to a judgment for damages. This principle aligns with modern trends in social legislation aimed at providing just compensation while promoting responsibility among common carriers.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Apply Filters