A dog bit my niece while she was playing at the park. The dog’s owner is the boyfriend of our neighbor. He does not live in our subdivision; according to some neighbors, he lives in Laguna. He only gave us P3,000—definitely not enough to answer for the hospitalization and medical needs of my niece. Can I file a case for reckless imprudence resulting in physical injuries?
We regret to inform you that you cannot file a complaint for reckless imprudence resulting to physical injuries. First and foremost, we would like to emphasize that criminal liability only attaches to an individual person for the wrongful act/s he or she committed against another person or for his or her negligence of which the law imposes upon him or her criminal responsibility.
In the situation that you have presented to us, we submit that you cannot file a criminal complaint against the boyfriend of your neighbor. While he is the owner of the dog that was involved in the unfortunate incident, no criminal responsibility attaches to him because he was not the one who committed the wrongful act.
Nevertheless, you may file a civil action for damages on the basis of quasi-delict. As provided for under Article 2176 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, “Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called quasi-delict x x x”
It bears stressing, though, that it is incumbent upon you to establish that the biting incident transpired on account of the negligence of the said owner and that your niece did not contribute to the incident. This is in consonance with Article 2183 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which states that, “The possessor of an animal or whoever may make use of the same is responsible for the damage which it may cause, although it may escape or be lost. This responsibility shall cease only in case the damage should come from force majeure or from the fault of the person who has suffered damage.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org