• Carrier liable for cargo damaged or destroyed during transit

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    I am starting a small computer shop in Isabela province, so I went to Manila to purchase 15 computers. I obtained the services of one bus company for the delivery of the computers to Isabela. The bus was met by heavy rains and flash floods caused by a typhoon when it was passing through Nueva Ecija. When I asked the conductor about the computers, he told me that they abandoned the bus on the road because it was taking in water coming from the mountains. Hence, everything in the bus was either damaged or destroyed. I demanded from the bus company that they compensate me for the loss of the computers. The company, however, refused, claiming that the loss was not their fault. Is this correct?
    Amelia

    Dear Amelia,
    The bus company is liable for the loss of the cargo because of negligence. Article 1733 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines states:

    “Common carriers, from the nature of their business and for reasons of public policy, are bound to observe extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods and for the safety of the passengers transported by them, according to all the circumstances of each case.”

    Common carriers are bound to observe extraordinary diligence at all times. The general rule is, if the loss of the thing results from flood, storm, earthquake, lightning or other natural disaster or calamity as stated under Article 1734 (1) of the same code, the common carrier may be absolved from liability provided he has done something to prevent or minimize loss of the cargo before, during or after the force majeure. This finds support also under Article 1739 of the code which states:

    “In order that the common carrier may be exempted from responsibility, the natural disaster must have been the proximate and only cause of the loss. However, the common carrier must exercise due diligence to prevent or minimize loss before, during and after the occurrence of flood, storm or other natural disaster in order that the common carrier may be exempted from liability for the loss, destruction or deterioration of the goods. The same duty is incumbent upon the common carrier in case of an act of the public enemy referred to in Article 1734, No. 2.”

    In your case, the bus company failed to observe the diligence required before, during or after the natural disaster. He failed to consider the weather before travelling and failed to do anything to prevent or minimize the loss during the typhoon because they just left the bus on the road instead of parking the same in higher ground that cannot be reached by flood.

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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