I am an owner of a van. Alberto rented it from me for two days because he will use this vehicle to ferry his family in going to Batangas. Alberto returned the car to me after their excursion. Two weeks later, police officers from Batangas came to my house inquiring about my car. I learned from them that the said car was involved in an accident during the time that Alberto rented it. The victims are now running after me to pay their hospital bills, but I told them that I must not be faulted for their injuries; hence, they should file their claim against Alberto. Please advise me on what to do.
You cannot evade liability by blaming Alberto because you are the registered owner of the car. Article 2180 of the Civil Code of the Philippines, provides that “the obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own act or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible.”
The Supreme Court also said in Filcar vs Espinas (G.R. No. 174156, June 20, 2012), that:
“Thus, whether the driver of the motor vehicle, Floresca, is an employee of Filcar is irrelevant in arriving at the conclusion that Filcar is primarily and directly liable for the damages sustained by Espinas. While Republic Act No. 4136 or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code does not contain any provision on the liability of registered owners in case of motor vehicle mishaps, Article 2176, in relation with Article 2180, of the Civil Code imposes an obligation upon Filcar, as registered owner, to answer for the damages caused to Espinas’ car. This interpretation is consistent with the strong public policy of maintaining road safety, thereby reinforcing the aim of the State to promote the responsible operation of motor vehicles by its citizens.
This does not mean, however, that Filcar is left without any recourse against the actual employer of the driver and the driver himself. Under the civil law principle of unjust enrichment, the registered owner of the motor vehicle has a right to be indemnified by the actual employer of the driver of the amount that he may be required to pay as damages for the injury caused to another.
The set-up may be inconvenient for the registered owner of the motor vehicle, but the inconvenience cannot outweigh the more important public policy being advanced by the law in this case which is the protection of innocent persons who may be victims of reckless drivers and irresponsible motor vehicle owners”.
Based from the above-stated jurisprudence, you can still demand indemnification from Alberto even if the law said that the liability falls upon the registered owner for damages sustained by the persons injured by your car. This is clearly within the principle of unjust enrichment.
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