I have a friend, Sarah. She is managing her small cafeteria. Right now, Sarah is worried because of an incident where one of her employees accidentally dropped the serving dishes, causing injuries to a customer. The customer is threatening to file a case against Sarah for the negligence of her employee. Is my friend accountable for the incident?
An employer’s liability for quasi-delict or negligence is provided in Article 2180, in relation to Article 2176 of the New Civil Code, to wit:
“ARTICLE 2176. 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 a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this code.”
“ARTICLE 2180. The obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible.
Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their assigned tasks, even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry.
The responsibility treated of in this article shall cease when the persons herein mentioned prove that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.” (Emphasis supplied)
Related to these provisions is the ruling of the Supreme Court in Mariano C. Mendoza and Elvira Lim vs. Spouses Leonora J. Gomez and Gabriel vs. Gomez, (G.R. No. 160110, June 18, 2014; ponente, former Associate Justice Jose Perez) that states:
“Generally, when an injury is caused by the negligence of a servant or employee, there instantly arises a presumption of law that there was negligence on the part of the master or employer either in the selection of the servant or employee (culpa in eligiendo) or in the supervision over him after the selection (culpa vigilando), or both. The presumption is juris tantum and not juris et de jure; consequently, it may be rebutted. Accordingly, the general rule is that if the employer shows to the satisfaction of the court that in the selection and supervision of his employee he has exercised the care and diligence of a good father of a family, the presumption is overcome and he is relieved of liability.”
Thus, it is incumbent upon Sarah to prove that she exercised the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of her employee to discharge her from liability.
With regard to the exercise of such diligence of a good father of a family, the Supreme Court emphasized in Filipinas Synthetic Fiber Corporation vs. Wilfredo delos Santos et al. (GR No. 152033, March 16, 2011; ponente, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta):
“In order that the defense of due diligence in the selection and supervision of employees may be deemed sufficient and plausible, it is not enough to emptily invoke the existence of said company guidelines and policies on hiring and supervision. As the negligence of the employee gives rise to the presumption of negligence on the part of the employer, the latter has the burden of proving that it has been diligent not only in the selection of employees but also in the actual supervision of their work. The mere allegation of the existence of hiring procedures and supervisory policies, without anything more, is decidedly not sufficient to overcome such presumption.”
It is to be remembered:
“In the selection of prospective employees, employers are required to examine them as to their qualification, experience and service record. With respect to the supervision of employees, employers must formulate standard operating procedures, monitor their implementation,and impose disciplinary measures for breaches thereof.
These facts must be shown by concrete proof, including documentary evidence” (Heirs of Ruben Reinoso Sr. vs. Court of Appeals et al., GR No. 116121, July 18, 2011; ponente, Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza).
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 email@example.com.