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LEGAL OPINION

October 21, 2017

Ms. Liza May Juni


Alilin Compound,
Casili Hills, Casili,
Cebu, 6001

Dear Ms. Juni:

Here is the opinion you requested. The facts, gathered from you and
your documents, are as follows:

Your daughter, Mary Banag, about six years old, went to Arthur Sison’s
house to buy ice-candy on September 12 at about 3 PM. Mary knocked on
the gate, but having gotten no response from Arthur who was napping then,
she tested the gate by pushing it. Upon doing so, the gate yielded and
Arthur’s dog jumped out, went after Mary and attacked her from behind,
biting her on the leg and arms as she fell to the ground. She was saved by
Fred Puzon, a neighbor, who kicked the dog away and protected her.
Awakened by the commotion and having heard shouts that his dog had
attacked a child, Arthur went out, sent the dog back to his yard and bought
Mary to a nearby clinic for treatment, paying the medical bill thereafter. You
asked Arthur to pay Mary P20,000 in damages for the ordeal but all you got
was a letter saying that he cannot grant your demand because he was not
at fault. He based his stand on the following:

1. That there was a sign at the gate warning about the presence of
the dog, in effect implying that if Mary heeded what the sign says,
the attack wouldn’t have happened
2. That at the time of the attack she was not accompanied by an
adult, impliedly putting the blame on you as her parent for letting
her roam outside unattended and therefore exposing her to
danger; and
3. That he already paid the bill for Mary’s medication.

The issue here is clear: it’s whether or not Arthur is liable to Mary for
damages. In my opinion, Arthur is liable for damages notwithstanding his
defenses. First and foremost, what happened to Mary is classified as a quasi-
delict, as defined by Article 2176 of the Civil Code:

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 Chapter.

As for the nature of Arthur’s liability, the provision that governs is Article
2183 of the Civil Code. It provides 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
damages should come from force majeure from the fault of the person
who has suffered damage.

The Supreme Court explained said provision in the case of Vestil v.


Intermediate Appellate Court (G.R. No. 74431, 179 SCRA 47), saying that:

According to Manresa, the obligation imposed by Article 2183 of the


Civil Code is not based on the negligence or on the presumed lack of
vigilance of the possessor or user of the animal causing the damage.
It is based on natural equity and on the principle of social interest that
he who possesses animals for his utility, pleasure or service must
answer for the damage which such animal may cause.

Now, Arthur may say that what happened was brought about by
contributory negligence on Mary’s part as the former implied in his letter, or
he may claim that letting Mary roam the vicinity unaccompanied is
negligence on your part and constitutes the proximate cause of her injuries,
notwithstanding his own negligence in leaving the gate unlocked before
napping. Both scenarios are governed by Article 2179 of the Civil Code that
provides:

When the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate
cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. But if his negligence
was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury
being the defendant’s lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover
damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded.

In the first scenario, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Jarco Marketing


Corporation v. Court of Appeals (G.R. No. 129792, 321 SCRA 375) that “a
child under nine years of age must be conclusively presumed incapable of
contributory negligence as a matter of law” covers Mary, hence throwing the
notion of contributory negligence on her part out the window. As for the
second scenario, the ruling in Umali v. Bacani (G.R. No. L-40570, 69 SCRA
263) provides that parental negligence in allowing a young child to go out of
the house alone may at most qualify as contributory negligence and as such
would be covered by the second sentence of Article 2179.

Arthur, being the owner of the dog that attacked Mary, is liable for
damages, with all possible defenses taken into consideration. If Arthur didn’t
leave the gate unlocked before taking a nap – an act showing a lack of due
care – there would have been no way the dog could have attacked Mary.
Mary could test the gate all day long and she wouldn’t be attacked by Arthur’s
dog had the gate been closed. Of course, he may say that paying Mary’s
medical bill should be enough, but that does not cover the moral damages
that Mary is entitled to under Article 2219 (2) of the Civil Code, which
specifically pertains to quasi-delicts causing physical injuries. As mentioned
earlier, the only reprieve due him would be a mitigation of his liability.
One thing: my opinion is based on the laws and the jurisprudence
applicable to your situation. If by any circumstance you take your plight to
court, I am confident that the case will be decided in your favor.

Very truly yours,

Atty. Josephine R. Logroño