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[G.R.No.131621.September28,1999]

LOADSTARSHIPPINGCO.,INC.,petitioner,vs.COURTOFAPPEALSandTHE

MANILAINSURANCECO.,INC.,respondents.

DAVIDE,JR.,C.J.:

DECISION

Petitioner Loadstar Shipping Co., Inc. (hereafter LOADSTAR), in this petition for review oncertiorariunder Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, seeks to reverse and set aside the following:(a)the30January1997decision [1] oftheCourtofAppealsinCA­G.R.CVNo.36401,which affirmedthedecisionof4October1991 [2] oftheRegionalTrialCourtofManila,Branch16,inCivilCase

No.85­29110,orderingLOADSTARtopayprivaterespondentManilaInsuranceCo.(hereafterMIC)the

amount of P6,067,178, with legal interest from the filing of the complaint until fully paid, P8,000 as attorneys fees, and the costs of the suit; and (b) its resolution of 19 November 1997, [3] denying LOADSTARsmotionforreconsiderationofsaiddecision.

Thefactsareundisputed.

On19November1984,LOADSTARreceivedonboarditsM/VCherokee(hereafter,thevessel)the

followinggoodsforshipment:

a)705balesoflawanithardwood;

b)27boxesandcratesoftilewoodassembliesandothers;and

c)49bundlesofmouldingsR&W(3)ApitongBolidenized.

Thegoods,amountingtoP6,067,178,wereinsuredforthesameamountwithMICagainstvariousrisks

including TOTAL LOSS BY TOTAL LOSS OF THE VESSEL. The vessel, in turn, was insured by

PrudentialGuarantee&Assurance,Inc.(hereafterPGAI)forP4million.On20November1984,onitsway

toManilafromtheportofNasipit,AgusandelNorte,thevessel,alongwithitscargo,sankoffLimasawa Island.Asaresultofthetotallossofitsshipment,theconsigneemadeaclaimwithLOADSTARwhich,

however,ignoredthesame.Astheinsurer,MICpaidP6,075,000totheinsuredinfullsettlementofitsclaim,

andthelatterexecutedasubrogationreceipttherefor.

On4February1985,MICfiledacomplaintagainstLOADSTARandPGAI,allegingthatthesinkingof

thevesselwasduetothefaultandnegligenceofLOADSTARanditsemployees.ItalsoprayedthatPGAIbe

orderedtopaytheinsuranceproceedsfromthelossofthevesseldirectlytoMIC,saidamounttobededucted

fromMICsclaimfromLOADSTAR.

Initsanswer,LOADSTARdeniedanyliabilityforthelossoftheshippersgoodsandclaimedthatthe

sinkingofitsvesselwasduetoforcemajeure.PGAI,ontheotherhand,averredthatMIChadnocauseof

actionagainstit,LOADSTARbeingthepartyinsured.Inanyevent,PGAIwaslaterdroppedasaparty

defendantafteritpaidtheinsuranceproceedstoLOADSTAR.

Asstatedattheoutset,thecourtaquorenderedjudgmentinfavorofMIC,promptingLOADSTARto

elevatethemattertotheCourtofAppeals,which,however,agreedwiththetrialcourtandaffirmedits

decisionintoto.

IndismissingLOADSTARsappeal,theappellatecourtmadethefollowingobservations:

1)LOADSTARcannotbeconsideredaprivatecarrieronthesolegroundthattherewasasingleshipperon

that fateful voyage. The court noted that the charter of the vessel was limited to the ship, but LOADSTARretainedcontroloveritscrew. [4]

2)Asa commoncarrier, itisthe Code ofCommerce, notthe CivilCode, whichshouldbe appliedin determiningtherightsandliabilitiesoftheparties.

3)Thevesselwasnotseaworthybecauseitwasundermannedonthedayofthevoyage.Ifithadbeen

seaworthy,itcouldhavewithstoodthenaturalandinevitableactionoftheseaon20November1984,

whentheconditionoftheseawasmoderate.Thevesselsank,notbecauseofforcemajeure,butbecause itwasnotseaworthy.LOADSTARSallegationthatthesinkingwasprobablyduetotheconvergenceof thewinds,asstatedbyaPAGASAexpert,wasnotdulyprovenatthetrial.Thelimitedliabilityrule, therefore,isnotapplicableconsideringthat,inthiscase,therewasanactualfindingofnegligenceon thepartofthecarrier. [5]

4) Between MIC and LOADSTAR, the provisions of the Bill of Lading do not apply because said provisionsbindonlytheshipper/consigneeandthecarrier.WhenMICpaidtheshipperforthegoods insured,itwassubrogatedtothelattersrightsasagainstthecarrier,LOADSTAR. [6]

5)There was a clear breachof the contractof carriage whenthe shippers goods never reachedtheir destination.LOADSTARsdefenseofdiligenceofagoodfatherofafamilyinthetrainingandselection ofitscrewisunavailingbecausethisisnotaproperorcompletedefenseinculpacontractual.

6)Art.361(oftheCodeofCommerce)hasbeenjudiciallyconstruedtomeanthatwhengoodsaredelivered

onboardashipingoodorderandcondition,andtheshipownerdeliversthemtotheshipperinbadorder andcondition,itthendevolvesupontheshipownertobothallegeandprovethatthegoodsweredamaged byreasonofsomefactwhichlegallyexemptshimfromliability.Transportationofthemerchandiseat theriskandventureoftheshippermeansthatthelatterbearstheriskoflossordeteriorationofhisgoods arisingfromfortuitousevents,forcemajeure,ortheinherentnatureanddefectsofthegoods,butnot thosecausedbythepresumednegligenceorfaultofthecarrier,unlessotherwiseproved. [7]

TheerrorsassignedbyLOADSTARboildowntoadeterminationofthefollowingissues:

(1)IstheM/VCherokeeaprivateoracommoncarrier?

(2)DidLOADSTARobservedueand/orordinarydiligenceinthesepremises?

Regardingthefirstissue,LOADSTARsubmitsthatthevesselwasaprivatecarrierbecauseitwasnot

issuedacertificateofpublicconvenience,itdidnothavearegulartriporschedulenorafixedroute,and

therewasonlyoneshipper,oneconsigneeforaspecialcargo.

Inrefutation,MICarguesthattheissueastotheclassificationoftheM/VCherokeewasnottimely raisedbelow;hence,itisbarredbyestoppel.Whileitistruethatthevesselhadonboardonlythecargoof wood products for delivery to one consignee, it was also carrying passengers as part of its regular business.Moreover,thebillsofladinginthiscasemadenomentionofanycharterpartybutonlyastatement thatthevesselwasageneralcargocarrier.NeitherwasthereanyspecialarrangementbetweenLOADSTAR and the shipper regarding the shipment of the cargo.The singular fact that the vessel was carrying a particulartypeofcargoforoneshipperisnotsufficienttoconvertthevesselintoaprivatecarrier.

Asregardstheseconderror,LOADSTARarguesthatasaprivatecarrier,itcannotbepresumedtohave beennegligent,andtheburdenofprovingotherwisedevolveduponMIC. [8]

LOADSTARalsomaintainsthatthevesselwasseaworthy.Beforethefatefulvoyageon19November

1984,thevesselwasallegedlydrydockedatKeppelPhilippinesShipyardandwasdulyinspectedbythe

maritimesafetyengineersofthePhilippineCoastGuard,whocertifiedthattheshipwasfittoundertakea voyage. Its crew at the time was experienced, licensed and unquestionably competent. With all these precautions,therecouldbenootherconclusionexceptthatLOADSTARexercisedthediligenceofagood fatherofafamilyinensuringthevesselsseaworthiness.

LOADSTARfurtherclaimsthatitwasnotresponsibleforthelossofthecargo,suchlossbeingdue

toforcemajeure.ItpointsoutthatwhenthevesselleftNasipit,AgusandelNorte,on19November1984,the

weatherwasfineuntilthenextdaywhenthevesselsankduetostrongwaves.MICswitness,GraceliaTapel, fullyestablishedtheexistenceoftwotyphoons,WELFRINGandYOLING,insidethePhilippineareaof

responsibility.Infact,on20November1984,signalno.1wasdeclaredoverEasternVisayas,whichincludes

LimasawaIsland.Tapelalsotestifiedthattheconvergenceofwindsbroughtaboutbythesetwotyphoons

strengthenedwindvelocityinthearea,naturallyproducingstrongwavesandwinds,inturn,causingthe

vesseltolistandeventuallysink.

LOADSTARgoesontoarguethat,beingaprivatecarrier,anyagreementlimitingitsliability,suchas whattranspiredinthiscase,isvalid.Sincethecargowasbeingshippedatownersrisk,LOADSTARwasnot liable for any loss or damage to the same.Therefore, the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the provisionsofthebillsofladingapplyonlytotheshipperandthecarrier,andnottotheinsurerofthegoods, whichconclusionrunscountertotheSupremeCourtsrulinginthecaseofSt.PaulFire&MarineInsurance Co.v.Macondray&Co.,Inc., [9] andNationalUnionFireInsuranceCompanyofPittsburgv.Stolt­Nielsen Phils.,Inc. [10]

Finally,LOADSTARaversthatMICsclaimhadalreadyprescribed,thecasehavingbeeninstituted beyondtheperiodstatedinthebillsofladingforinstitutingthesamesuitsbaseduponclaimsarisingfrom shortage,damage,ornon­deliveryofshipmentshallbeinstitutedwithinsixtydaysfromtheaccrualofthe

rightofaction.Thevesselsankon20November1984;yet,thecaseforrecoverywasfiledonlyon4

February1985.

MIC,ontheotherhand,claimsthatLOADSTARwasliable,notwithstandingthatthelossofthecargo

wasduetoforcemajeure,becausethesameconcurredwithLOADSTARsfaultornegligence.

Secondly,LOADSTARdidnotraisetheissueofprescriptioninthecourtbelow;hence,thesamemust

bedeemedwaived.

Thirdly,thelimitedliabilitytheoryisnotapplicableinthecaseatbarbecauseLOADSTARwasatfault

ornegligent,andbecauseitfailedtomaintainaseaworthyvessel.Authorizingthevoyagenotwithstanding

itsknowledgeofatyphoonistantamounttonegligence.

Wefindnomeritinthispetition.

Anentthefirstassignederror,weholdthatLOADSTARisacommoncarrier.Itisnotnecessarythatthe

carrierbeissuedacertificateofpublicconvenience,andthispubliccharacterisnotalteredbythefactthat

thecarriageofthegoodsinquestionwasperiodic,occasional,episodicorunscheduled.

Insupportofitsposition,LOADSTARreliedonthe1968caseofHomeInsuranceCo.v.American

SteamshipAgencies,Inc., [11] wherethisCourtheldthatacommoncarriertransportingspecialcargoor charteringthevesseltoaspecialpersonbecomesaprivatecarrierthatisnotsubjecttotheprovisionsofthe CivilCode.Anystipulationinthecharterpartyabsolvingtheownerfromliabilityforlossduetothe negligenceofitsagentisvoidonlyifthestrictpolicygoverningcommoncarriersisupheld.Suchpolicyhas noforcewherethepublicatlargeisnotinvolved,asinthecaseofashiptotallycharteredfortheuseofa single party. LOADSTAR also cited Valenzuela Hardwood and Industrial Supply, Inc. v. Court of Appeals [12] and National Steel Corp. v. Court of Appeals, [13] both of which upheld the Home Insurancedoctrine.

ThesecasesinvokedbyLOADSTARarenotapplicableinthecaseatbarforsimplereasonthatthe factualsettingsaredifferent.TherecordsdonotdisclosethattheM/VCherokee,onthedateinquestion, undertooktocarryaspecialcargoorwascharteredtoaspecialpersononly.Therewasnocharterparty.The billsofladingfailedtoshowanyspecialarrangement,butonlyageneralprovisiontotheeffectthattheM/V Cherokeewasageneralcargocarrier. [14] Further,thebarefactthatthevesselwascarryingaparticulartype ofcargoforoneshipper,whichappearstobepurelycoincidental,isnotreasonenoughtoconvertthevessel fromacommontoaprivatecarrier,especiallywhere,asinthiscase,itwasshownthatthevesselwasalso carryingpassengers.

Underthefactsandcircumstancesobtaininginthiscase,LOADSTARfitsthedefinitionofacommon carrierunderArticle1732oftheCivilCode.InthecaseofDeGuzmanv.CourtofAppeals, [15] theCourt juxtaposedthestatutorydefinitionofcommoncarrierswiththepeculiarcircumstancesofthatcase,viz.:

TheCivilCodedefinescommoncarriersinthefollowingterms:

Article1732.Commoncarriersarepersons,corporations,firmsorassociationsengagedinthebusinessof

carryingortransportingpassengersorgoodsorboth,byland,water,orairforcompensation,offeringtheir

servicestothepublic.

Theabovearticlemakesnodistinctionbetweenonewhoseprincipalbusinessactivityisthecarryingof

personsorgoodsorboth,andonewhodoessuchcarryingonlyasanancillaryactivity(inlocalidiom,asa

sideline.Article1732alsocarefullyavoidsmakinganydistinctionbetweenapersonorenterpriseoffering

transportationserviceonaregularorscheduledbasisandoneofferingsuchserviceonanoccasional,

episodicorunscheduledbasis.NeitherdoesArticle1732distinguishbetweenacarrierofferingitsservicesto

thegeneralpublic,i.e.,thegeneralcommunityorpopulation,andonewhooffersservicesorsolicitsbusiness

onlyfromanarrowsegmentofthegeneralpopulation.WethinkthatArticle1733deliberatelyrefrainedfrom

makingsuchdistinctions.

xxx

ItappearstotheCourtthatprivaterespondentisproperlycharacterizedasacommoncarriereventhoughhe

merelyback­hauledgoodsforothermerchantsfromManilatoPangasinan,althoughsuchbackhaulingwas

doneonaperiodicoroccasionalratherthanregularorscheduledmanner,andeventhoughprivate

respondentsprincipaloccupationwasnotthecarriageofgoodsforothers.Thereisnodisputethatprivate

respondentchargedhiscustomersafeeforhaulingtheirgoods;thatthatfeefrequentlyfellbelow

commercialfreightratesisnotrelevanthere.

TheCourtofAppealsreferredtothefactthatprivaterespondentheldnocertificateofpublicconvenience,

andconcludedhewasnotacommoncarrier.Thisispalpableerror.Acertificateofpublicconvenienceisnot

arequisitefortheincurringofliabilityundertheCivilCodeprovisionsgoverningcommoncarriers.That

liabilityarisesthemomentapersonorfirmactsasacommoncarrier,withoutregardtowhetherornotsuch

carrierhasalsocompliedwiththerequirementsoftheapplicableregulatorystatuteandimplementing

regulationsandhasbeengrantedacertificateofpublicconvenienceorotherfranchise.Toexemptprivate

respondentfromtheliabilitiesofacommoncarrierbecausehehasnotsecuredthenecessarycertificateof

publicconvenience,wouldbeoffensivetosoundpublicpolicy;thatwouldbetorewardprivaterespondent

preciselyforfailingtocomplywithapplicablestatutoryrequirements.Thebusinessofacommoncarrier

impingesdirectlyandintimatelyuponthesafetyandwellbeingandpropertyofthosemembersofthe

generalcommunitywhohappentodealwithsuchcarrier.Thelawimposesdutiesandliabilitiesupon

commoncarriersforthesafetyandprotectionofthosewhoutilizetheirservicesandthelawcannotallowa

commoncarriertorendersuchdutiesandliabilitiesmerelyfacultativebysimplyfailingtoobtainthe

necessarypermitsandauthorizations.

Movingontothesecondassignederror,wefindthattheM/VCherokeewasnotseaworthywhenit

embarkedonitsvoyageon19November1984.Thevesselwasnotevensufficientlymannedatthetime.For

avesseltobeseaworthy,itmustbeadequatelyequippedforthevoyageandmannedwithasufficientnumber ofcompetentofficersandcrew.Thefailureofacommoncarriertomaintaininseaworthyconditionitsvessel involvedinacontractofcarriageisaclearbreachofitsdutyprescribedinArticle1755oftheCivilCode. [16]

NeitherdoweagreewithLOADSTARsargumentthatthelimitedliabilitytheoryshouldbeappliedin thiscase.Thedoctrineoflimitedliabilitydoesnotapplywheretherewasnegligenceonthepartofthevessel owneroragent. [17] LOADSTARwasatfaultornegligentinnotmaintainingaseaworthyvesselandinhaving alloweditsvesseltosaildespiteknowledgeofanapproachingtyphoon.Inanyevent,itdidnotsinkbecause ofanystormthatmaybedeemedasforcemajeure,inasmuchasthewindconditionintheareawhereitsank wasdeterminedtobemoderate.Sinceitwasremissintheperformanceofitsduties,LOADSTARcannot hidebehindthelimitedliabilitydoctrinetoescaperesponsibilityforthelossofthevesselanditscargo.

LOADSTARalsoclaimsthattheCourtofAppealserredinholdingitliableforthelossofthegoods,in utterdisregardofthisCourtspronouncementsinSt.PaulFire&MarineIns.Co.v.Macondray&Co.,Inc., [18] andNationalUnionFireInsurancev.Stolt­NielsenPhils.,Inc. [19] Itwasruledinthesetwocasesthat afterpayingtheclaimoftheinsuredfordamagesundertheinsurancepolicy,theinsurerissubrogatedmerely totherightsoftheassured,thatis,itcanrecoveronlytheamountthatmay,inturn,berecoveredbythe latter.Sincetherightoftheassuredincaseoflossordamagetothegoodsislimitedorrestrictedbythe provisions in the bills of lading, a suit by the insurer as subrogee is necessarily subject to the same limitationsandrestrictions.Wedonotagree.Inthefirstplace,thecasesreliedonbyLOADSTARinvolveda limitationonthecarriersliabilitytoanamountfixedinthebillofladingwhichthepartiesmayenterinto,

providedthatthesamewasfreelyandfairlyagreedupon(Articles1749­1750).Ontheotherhand,the

stipulationinthecaseatbareffectivelyreducesthecommoncarriersliabilityforthelossordestructionof

thegoodstoadegreelessthanextraordinary(Articles1744and1745),thatis,thecarrierisnotliableforany

lossordamagetoshipmentsmadeatownersrisk.Suchstipulationisobviouslynullandvoidforbeing contrarytopublicpolicy. [20] Ithasbeensaid:

Threekindsofstipulationshaveoftenbeenmadeinabilloflading.Thefirstisoneexemptingthecarrier fromanyandallliabilityforlossordamageoccasionedbyitsownnegligence.Thesecondisoneproviding foranunqualifiedlimitationofsuchliabilitytoanagreedvaluation.Andthethirdisonelimitingtheliability ofthecarriertoanagreedvaluationunlesstheshipperdeclaresahighervalueandpaysahigherrateof freight.Accordingtoanalmostuniformweightofauthority,thefirstandsecondkindsofstipulationsare invalidasbeingcontrarytopublicpolicy,butthethirdisvalidandenforceable. [21]

Since the stipulation in question is null and void, it follows that when MIC paid the shipper, it was subrogatedtoalltherightswhichthelatterhasagainstthecommoncarrier,LOADSTAR.

Neitheristheremerittothecontentionthattheclaiminthiscasewasbarredbyprescription.MICs causeofactionhadnotyetprescribedatthetimeitwasconcerned.InasmuchasneithertheCivilCodenor theCodeofCommercestatesaspecificprescriptiveperiodonthematter,theCarriageofGoodsbySeaAct (COGSA)whichprovidesforaone­yearperiodoflimitationonclaimsforlossof,ordamageto,cargoes sustainedduringtransitmaybeappliedsuppletorilytothecaseatbar.Thisone­yearprescriptiveperiodalso appliestotheinsurerofthegood. [22] Inthiscase,theperiodforfilingtheactionforrecoveryhasnotyet elapsed.Moreover,astipulationreducingtheone­yearperiodisnullandvoid; [23] itmust,accordingly,be struckdown.

WHEREFORE,theinstantpetitionisDENIEDandthechallengeddecisionof30January1997ofthe

CourtofAppealsinCA­G.R.CVNo.36401isAFFIRMED.Costsagainstpetitioner.

SOORDERED.