My friend who was about to leave for work abroad lent me his laptop until his return, 3 months after. I failed to return the laptop on time because I was sent to the province by my boss to fix some problems. When I returned home, I discovered that a thief entered my house and took with him valuable things including the laptop. I know that it was beyond my control and I should be blamed for the loss of the laptop. But can my friend force me to pay him for the loss of his laptop? I am willing to pay him half.
The agreement you entered into with your friend for the use of his laptop without any compensation or consideration in return is regarded by law as a contract of commodatum. This is according to Article 1933 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines which provides:
“Art. 1933. By the contract of loan, one of the parties delivers to another, either something not consumable so that the latter may use the same for a certain time and return it, in which case the contract is called a commodatum; xxx
Commodatum is essentially gratuitous.
It is the responsibility of the borrower or the bailee to take good care of the thing loaned and he/she shall be obliged to pay for the ordinary expenses for its use and preservation. However, if the thing is loss due to unforeseen or fortuitous events, the bailee shall not be held liable except as follows:
“Art. 1942. The bailee is liable for the loss of the thing, even if it should be through a fortuitous event:
(1) If he devotes the thing to any purpose different from that for which it has been loaned;
(2) If he keeps it longer than the period stipulated, or after the accomplishment of the use for which the commodatum has been constituted;
(3) If the thing loaned has been delivered with appraisal of its value, unless there is a stipulation exempting the bailee from responsibility in case of a fortuitous event;
(4) If he lends or leases the thing to a third person, who is not a member of his household;
(5) If, being able to save either the thing borrowed or his own thing, he chose to save the latter.”
In your situation, you are still liable for the loss of the laptop you borrowed from your friend, even if the loss was due to an event which is beyond your control. This is because you failed to return the same on time as agreed upon. Based on the abovementioned law, your friend may compel you to reimburse him the amount of the laptop.
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org