Schools can be sued for negligence

1
Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My daughter got injured in school when one of her classmates, who is only nine years old, knocked down the door of their classroom. We incurred medical expenses for the medical tests and treatments administered to her. I discussed the incident with the school officials and requested them to shoulder a portion of the medical expenses, but they denied responsibility for what happened. They said it was purely accidental. Can I file a suit against the school?
Danica

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Dear Danica,
The school, its administrators and teachers, or the individual, entity or institution engaged in child care have special parental authority and responsibility over the minor child while under their supervision, instruction or custody (Art. 218, Family Code of the Philippines [FCP]). As a result, they are principally and solidarily liable for damages caused by the acts or omissions of a child under their care. The parents, judicial guardians or other persons exercising substitute parental authority over the said minor are liable only subsidiarily (Art. 219, FCP).

Principal liability means that the school, its administrators and teachers have a direct and primary responsibility for the damages caused by the minor student while he/she remains in their custody. On the other hand, solidary liability means that every liable person may be required to render entire compliance with the obligation.

The school, its administrators and teachers, may only exempt themselves from the liability imposed by the law if they can prove that they exercised the proper diligence required under the particular circumstances. (2nd par. Art. 218, Id.) They must show that they observed proper care based on the surrounding circumstances to prevent the untoward incident. It also denotes absence of negligence.

Applying the foregoing to your case, it is probable that the school failed to exercise proper diligence to protect its students based on your narration. If a nine-year-old child was able to knock down the classroom’s door, there is reason to believe that the door was not properly fixed or adequately maintained so as to avoid injury to the students. If this is true, then the school was negligent in taking precautions for the safety of its students.

The school argues that the incident is purely accidental to avoid liability. It appears that they are claiming that it is a fortuitous event, which refers to an extraordinary event that is not foreseeable, or though foreseeable, is unavoidable.

However, before the same may be taken into account, the school must present evidence that the incident is indeed unforeseeable or unavoidable. For indeed, the burden of proving that the loss was due to a fortuitous event rests on him who invokes it (Sicam vs. Jorge, 529 SCRA 443). Moreover, in order for the fortuitous event to be considered, it must be shown that no negligence or misconduct was committed that may have occasioned the loss (Saludaga vs. Far Eastern University, 553 SCRA 741).

Hence, the claim of the school that the incident was purely incidental will be negated if it is proved that there was negligence.

I hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter. Please bear in mind that this opinion is based on the facts you narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary if the 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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1 Comment

  1. Atty. Acosta,
    I am a retired employee(56) currently unemployed. I have a house that got ransacked/damaged inside a subdivision in Paranaque city.My family & I abandoned the house due to constant threats and malicious intent by our next door neighbor of whom we have filed a case against and they won. The house was fully ransacked(everything) and damaged last year except for the gate left standing. My query is could i sue the homeowners association for this case, the neighbor is also a homeowner association officer and it is her family who perpetrated the property damage and ransacking.The damage was done on the month of July and August 2014( timed during typhoon), even trucked out the usable materials with my other neighbors knowledge but afraid to testify due to the bad reputation of the family involved. After they ransacked and damaged the house, they turned it to a drug den (one was eventually arrested for drug pushing) and even turned what’s left of the house in to a hang out of bad elements in cahoots with the association officers.I only discovered the damage during my visit last 9th December2014 where we even found a motorcycle inside and some other items.The crime is still being investigated by the local police and barangay. Hope you can help me Atty.