• Diligence still required of carriers even if passengers paid discounted fare

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    My son took the bus to go back to our province for his summer vacation. Since the bus conductor was a distant relative, he gave my son a fare discount. Unfortunately, the bus was involved in a traffic mishap that caused my son serious injuries. The bus company refused to shoulder the expenses for the treatment of my son because they claimed that the accident was not their fault. They even told me that they have no obligation to help since my son did not even pay the full bus fare. Is the bus company correct?
    Sincerely yours,
    Billy

    Dear Billy,
    Public transports like buses and jeepneys are considered as common carriers. Because common carriers deal with the riding public, the law imposes on them to observe extraordinary diligence when it comes to the safety of their passengers. Articles 1755 and 1756 of the Civil Code of the Philippines state:

    “Article 1755. A common carrier is bound to carry the passengers safely as far as human care and foresight can provide, using the utmost diligence of very cautious persons, with a due regard for all the circumstances.

    “Article 1756. In case of death of or injuries to passengers, common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently, unless they prove that they observed extraordinary diligence as prescribed in articles 1733 and 1755.”

    Pursuant to the above-stated provisions, a common carrier is presumed to have been at fault whenever any of its passengers died or was injured, unless it is able to show that despite observing extraordinary diligence the accident still occurred. In Spouses Perena vs. Spouses Nicolas et al .(G.R. No. 157917, August 29, 2012), penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the Supreme Court held:

    “To successfully fend off liability in an action upon the death or injury to a passenger, the common carrier must prove his or its observance of that extraordinary diligence; otherwise, the legal presumption that he or it was at fault or acted negligently would stand.”

    Furthermore, the common carrier cannot escape its duty to observe extraordinary diligence just because a passenger did not pay the full fare. Article 1758 of the Civil Code of the Philippines states:

    “Article 1758. When a passenger is carried gratuitously, a stipulation limiting the common carrier’s liability for negligence is valid, but not for willful acts or gross negligence.

    The reduction of fare does not justify any limitation of the common carrier’s liability.” (Emphasis supplied)

    In the case of your son, you have the right to demand from the bus company compensation for the injuries that he sustained while on board the bus. The fact that he paid a discounted fare is of no moment, unless the bus company is able to demonstrate that they observed extraordinary diligence in transporting your son and his fellow passengers.

    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 dearpao@manilatimes.net

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