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Chapman v.

Underwood
G.R. No. 9010; 28 March 1914; Moreland, J.
Digest prepared by Dodot

Doctrine
If the drivers negligent act is sudden, and the owner did not have a reasonable opportunity to prevent
the act (or its continuance) the owner, although present, is not liable.

Synopsis
Chapman bumped by Underwoods automobile when it suddenly swerved to the wrong side of the
street car ahead of it. The drivers negligent act was so sudden that Underwood did not have time to
prevent it: thus, he is not liable for his drivers negligent acts.

I. Facts

There was a single-track street-car line running along Calle Herran. Cars to met and passed each other
on occasional switches one such switch was located at the scene of the accident.

J.H. Chapman (plaintiff-appellant) had been visiting his friend, Creveling. In front of the latters house,
Chapman wished to board a San Marcelino car, coming from Sta. Ana and bound for Manila. He
hurried past the gate into the street after being told that the car was approaching.

There were two entrances: either via the front platform or the rear one. At first Chapman tried to board
via the front, but seeing that he couldnt reach it without extra exertion, he decided to just stop beside
the car and wait for the rear platform to come abreast of him.

He was struck and run over by James Underwoods automobile.

Underwoods automobile driven by a chauffeur had been following a street car along Calle Herran.
From along the main line, the street car took the switch and went off the main line, to the left. The
automobile just kept along the main street car line (or a bit to the right of it). By this time, the San
Marcelino street car was also along the main line, ahead of the automobile, bound in an opposite
direction. When the front of San Marcelino was almost in front of the automobile, the driver suddenly
went to the right and struck Chapman.

Trial Court: for Underwood.

II. Issues (and short answers)

(1) WoN Underwoods driver is guilty of negligence. (YES.)

(2) WoN Underwood is liable . (NO.)


III. Held

The judgment appealed from is affirmed. Underwood is not liable for his drivers negligent acts.


IV. Ratio

(1) Underwoods driver is guilty of negligence

Defendants driver was guilty of negligence in passing an oncoming car on the wrong side. Approaching
the streetcar, Chapman was not obliged (for his own protection) to observe whether a car was coming
upon him from his left hand; he only had to guard against those coming from the right the only ones
under the law permitted to pass that side of the street car.

(2) Underwood is not liable for his drivers negligent acts

On one hand, an owner who sits in his automobile and permits his driver to continue in a violation of the
law by the performance of negligent acts after he has had a reasonable opportunity to observe them
and to direct the driver to cease therefrom becomes himself responsible (criminally and civilly) for the
acts.

On the other hand, if the drivers negligent act is sudden, and the owner did not have a reasonable
opportunity to prevent the act (or its continuance) then the owner, although present, is not liable.

The case at bar falls within the second situation. The interval between the turning out to meet and pass
the street car and the happening of the accident was so small so as not to be sufficient to charge
Underwood with the negligence of his driver.