LGU’s liability for injuries caused by defective public works

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Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
One rainy Sunday morning, I went to our local public market with my granddaughter to buy fresh meat and vegetables. After finishing our grocery list, the water around the public market was already knee-deep. While crossing the street, I didn’t see that there was an open manhole in front of me. I stepped on the open manhole and fell into it. I hit my head on the rim of the manhole and had a ghastly wound on my left leg. I was hospitalized for two days and was required to use crutches for two weeks.

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I incurred medical expenses because of the accident. I want to know if I can claim damages for the injuries that I sustained and against whom can I claim the same. Thank you, and more power to your office.
Lola Modesta

Dear Lola Modesta,
The local government unit (LGU) that has control and supervision over the street where the manhole is placed is liable for the injuries that you sustained because of the open manhole. Article 2189 of the Civil Code of the Philippines states:

“Art. 2189. Provinces, cities and municipalities shall be liable for damages for the death of, or injuries suffered by, any person by reason of the defective condition of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings and other public works under their control and supervision.”

This law clearly makes the municipality which has control and supervision over the street, where the open manhole is located, liable for damages on the injuries that you sustained. In the case of the City of Manila vs. Teotico (G. R. No. L-23052, January 29, 1968; ponente, former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion), the Supreme Court even reiterated that:

“[U]nder Article 2189 of the Civil Code, it is not necessary for the liability therein established to attach that the defective roads or streets belong to the province, city or municipality from which responsibility is exacted. What said article requires is that the province, city or municipality have either “control or supervision” over said street or road. Even if P. Burgos Avenue were, therefore, a national highway, this circumstance would not necessarily detract from its “control or supervision” by the City of Manila, under Republic Act 409.”

Thus, ownership of the defective manhole or other public works is not necessary as the law only requires that the LGU should exercise control and supervision over the same. Accordingly, the basic requirements to hold the LGU liable for damages are: (i) the control and supervision of the local government unit in the defective public works; and, (ii) the injuries sustained by an individual that was caused by the defective public works.

Concomitantly, in the above cited case, the Supreme Court held the local government unit liable for injuries sustained by a pedestrian when he fell into an open manhole by virtue of Article 2189 of the Civil Code. Hence, should you desire to claim for damages for the injuries that you sustained, you may file a claim for damages against the LGU that has control and supervision over the same.

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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