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YHT Realty Corp. vs CA, GR No.

126780, February 17, 2005

Facts:
McLoughlin was an Australian businessman-philanthropist who met a certain Bhrunilda Mata – Tan and
befriended him. Tan convinced McLoughlin to transfer from Sheraton Hotel and stay at Tropicana Hotel
during trips to the Philippines. Petitioners Lainez, as manager, Payam and Danilo Lopez, had the custody of
the keys for the safety deposit boxes, were all employees at Tropicana. McLoughlin started staying at said
Tropicana Hotel and registered therein from December 1984 to 1987. On October 30, 1987, McLoughlin
arrived from Australia and registered with Tropicana. He rented a safety deposit box which could only be
opened through the use of 2 keys, one of which is given to the registered guest, and the other remaining in the
possession of the management of the hotel. When a registered guest wished to open his safety deposit box, he
alone could personally request the management who then would assign one of its employees to accompany
the guest and assist him in opening the safety deposit box with the two keys.

When McLoughlin went for a trip in Hong Kong and without checking out the hotel, he left some US and
Australian dollars in the safety deposit box. Upon his return, he went back to Australia; there he noticed that
some USD5000 and jewelry he bought from Hong Kong were missing. When he came back to the Philippines,
again registered and rented a safety deposit box with Tropicana, placing therein some USD15000, AUD10000
and some important documents. He requested to open the safety deposit box, but he found out that USD2000,
and AUD4500 were missing. He confronted Lainez and Payam; they told him that Tan was able to open the
safety deposit box. Tan admitted to the said actuation and added that she was assisted by Lainez, Lopez and
Payam. Lopez wrote a PN and requested Tan to sign it, which the latter did. Despite the execution of the PN,
McLoughlin insisted that it must be the hotel who must assume responsibility for the loss he suffered.
However, Lopez refused to accept the responsibility relying on the conditions for renting the deposit box,
which held free and blameless Tropicana for any loss in the contents of the safety deposit box.

Issue:
May a hotel evade liability for the loss of items left with it for safekeeping by its guests, by having these guests
execute written waivers holding the establishment or its employees free from blame for such loss in light of
Article 2003 of the Civil Code which voids such waivers?

Held:
No. Petitioners were directed, jointly and severally, to pay private respondent.

Ratio:
For the main issue:

Article 2003 provides that the hotel-keeper cannot free himself from responsibility by posting notices to the
effect that he is not liable for the articles brought by the guest. Any stipulation between the hotel-keeper and
the guest whereby the reasonability of the former as set for the in articles 1998 to 2001 is suppressed or
diminished shall be void. The hotel business like the common carrier's business is imbued with public
interest. Catering to the public, hotelkeepers are bound to provide not only lodging for hotel guests and
security to their persons and belongings. The twin duty constitutes the essence of the business. The law in
turn does not allow such duty to the public to be negated or diluted by any contrary stipulation in so-called
"undertakings" that ordinarily appear in prepared forms imposed by hotel keepers on guests for their
signature.

In an early case, to hold hotel-keepers or innkeepers liable for the effects of their guests, it is not necessary
that they be actually delivered to the innkeepers or their employees. It is enough that such effects are within
the hotel or inn. With greater reason should the liability of the hotelkeeper be enforced when the missing
items are taken without the guest’s knowledge and consent from a safety deposit box provided by the hotel
itself. The undertaking manifestly contravened Article 2003 of the Civil Code it allowed Tropicana to be
released from liability arising from any loss in the contents of the safety deposit box for any cause
whatsoever. Evidently, the undertaking was intended to bar any claim against Tropicana for any loss of the
contents of the safety deposit box whether or not negligence was incurred by Tropicana or its employees. The
New Civil Code is explicit that the responsibility of the hotel-keeper shall extend to loss of, or injury to, the
personal property of the guests even if caused by servants or employees of the keepers of hotels or inns as
well as by strangers, except as it may proceed from any force majeure. It is the loss through force majeure that
may spare the hotel-keeper from liability. In the case at bar, there is no showing that the act of the thief or
robber was done with the use of arms or through an irresistible force to qualify the same as force majeure.
_________________________________________________________

(for the benefit of all - Supplemental reasoning of the Court)

We are also not impressed by petitioners' argument that the finding of gross negligence by the lower court as affirmed by the appellate court
is not supported by evidence. The evidence reveals that two keys are required to open the safety deposit boxes of Tropicana. One key is
assigned to the guest while the other remains in the possession of the management. If the guest desires to open his safety deposit box, he must
request the management for the other key to open the same. In other words, the guest alone cannot open the safety deposit box without the
assistance of the management or its employees. With more reason that access to the safety deposit box should be denied if the one requesting
for the opening of the safety deposit box is a stranger. Thus, in case of loss of any item deposited in the safety deposit box, it is inevitable to
conclude that the management had at least a hand in the consummation of the taking, unless the reason for the loss is force majeure.

Noteworthy is the fact that Payam and Lainez, who were employees of Tropicana, had custody of the master key of the management when
the loss took place. In fact, they even admitted that they assisted Tan on three separate occasions in opening McLoughlin's safety deposit
box. This only proves that Tropicana had prior knowledge that a person aside from the registered guest had access to the safety deposit box.
Yet the management failed to notify McLoughlin of the incident and waited for him to discover the taking before it disclosed the matter to
him. Therefore, Tropicana should be held responsible for the damage suffered by McLoughlin by reason of the negligence of its employees.

The management should have guarded against the occurrence of this incident considering that Payam admitted in open court that she
assisted Tan three times in opening the safety deposit box of McLoughlin at around 6:30 A.M. to 7:30 A.M. while the latter was still asleep. In
light of the circumstances surrounding this case, it is undeniable that without the acquiescence of the employees of Tropicana to the opening
of the safety deposit box, the loss of McLoughlin's money could and should have been avoided.

The management contends, however, that McLoughlin, by his act, made its employees believe that Tan was his spouse for she was always
with him most of the time. The evidence on record, however, is bereft of any showing that McLoughlin introduced Tan to the management as
his wife. Such an inference from the act of McLoughlin will not exculpate the petitioners from liability in the absence of any showing that he
made the management believe that Tan was his wife or was duly authorized to have access to the safety deposit box. Mere close
companionship and intimacy are not enough to warrant such conclusion considering that what is involved in the instant case is the very
safety of McLoughlin's deposit. If only petitioners exercised due diligence in taking care of McLoughlin's safety deposit box, they should have
confronted him as to his relationship with Tan considering that the latter had been observed opening McLoughlin's safety deposit box a
number of times at the early hours of the morning. Tan's acts should have prompted the management to investigate her relationship with
McLoughlin. Then, petitioners would have exercised due diligence required of them. Failure to do so warrants the conclusion that the
management had been remiss in complying with the obligations imposed upon hotel-keepers under the law.

Under Article 1170 of the New Civil Code, those who, in the performance of their obligations, are guilty of negligence, are liable for damages.
As to who shall bear the burden of paying damages, Article 2180, paragraph (4) of the same Code provides that the owners and
managers of an establishment or enterprise are likewise responsible for damages caused by their employees in the service of the branches in
which the latter are employed or on the occasion of their functions. Also, this Court has ruled that if an employee is found negligent, it is
presumed that the employer was negligent in selecting and/or supervising him for it is hard for the victim to prove the negligence of such
employer.Thus, given the fact that the loss of McLoughlin's money was consummated through the negligence of Tropicana's employees in
allowing Tan to open the safety deposit box without the guest's consent, both the assisting employees and YHT Realty Corporation itself, as
owner and operator of Tropicana, should be held solidarily liable pursuant to Article 2193.

Petitioners likewise anchor their defense on Article 200243 which exempts the hotel-keeper from liability if the loss is due to the acts of his
guest, his family, or visitors. Even a cursory reading of the provision would lead us to reject petitioners' contention. The justification they
raise would render nugatory the public interest sought to be protected by the provision. What if the negligence of the employer or its
employees facilitated the consummation of a crime committed by the registered guest's relatives or visitor? Should the law exculpate the
hotel from liability since the loss was due to the act of the visitor of the registered guest of the hotel? Hence, this provision presupposes that
the hotel-keeper is not guilty of concurrent negligence or has not contributed in any degree to the occurrence of the loss. A depositary is not
responsible for the loss of goods by theft, unless his actionable negligence contributes to the loss.
In the case at bar, the responsibility of securing the safety deposit box was shared not only by the guest himself but also by the management
since two keys are necessary to open the safety deposit box. Without the assistance of hotel employees, the loss would not have occurred.
Thus, Tropicana was guilty of concurrent negligence in allowing Tan, who was not the registered guest, to open the safety deposit box of
McLoughlin, even assuming that the latter was also guilty of negligence in allowing another person to use his key. To rule otherwise would
result in undermining the safety of the safety deposit boxes in hotels for the management will be given imprimatur to allow any person, under
the pretense of being a family member or a visitor of the guest, to have access to the safety deposit box without fear of any liability that will
attach thereafter in case such person turns out to be a complete stranger. This will allow the hotel to evade responsibility for any liability
incurred by its employees in conspiracy with the guest's relatives and visitors.

Petitioners contend that McLoughlin's case was mounted on the theory of contract, but the trial court and the appellate court upheld the
grant of the claims of the latter on the basis of tort.There is nothing anomalous in how the lower courts decided the controversy for this Court
has pronounced a jurisprudential rule that tort liability can exist even if there are already contractual relations. The act that breaks the
contract may also be tort.
SERRANO VS. CENTRAL BANK, GR No. L-30511, February 14, 1980

Petition for mandamus and prohibition, with preliminary injunction that pursues the creation of joint and
solidary liability against the respondent.

Facts:
Serrano filed a case against Overseas Bank and Central bank so that they may jointly separately liable,
because, the P350K worth of time deposits by Serrano in overseas bank of Manila is not successful when he
made a series of encashment, because on the alleged failure of the Overseas Bank of Manila to return the time
deposits made by petitioner and assigned to him, because respondent Central Bank failed in its duty to
exercise strict supervision over respondent Overseas Bank of Manila to protect depositors and the general
public.

Issue: Whether the Central Bank is Liable for the case filed?

Held:
No, Bank deposits are in the nature of irregular deposits. They are really loans because they earn interest. All
kinds of bank deposits, whether fixed, savings, or current are to be treated as loans and are to be covered by
the law on loans. Current and savings deposit are loans to a bank because it can use the same. The petitioner
here in making time deposits that earn interests with respondent Overseas Bank of Manila was in reality a
creditor of the respondent Bank and not a depositor. The respondent Bank was in turn a debtor of petitioner.
Failure of the respondent Bank to honor the time deposit is failure to pay s obligation as a debtor and not a
breach of trust arising from depositary’s failure to return the subject matter of the deposit
WHEREFORE, the petition is dismissed for lack of merit, with costs against petitioner.
SO ORDERED.