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National Power Corporation v.

Heirs of Noble Casionan


G.R. No. 165969
November 27, 2008

This case is a review on certiorari of the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) which found
the NPC liable for damages for the death of Noble Casionan due to electrocution from the
company’s high tension transmission lines.

From the said case, the focus was emphasized by the question “Is the victim partly to
blame for his electrocution and eventual demise?”. Hence, this was answered with facts that were
found by the trial court. Accordingly, in 1970s, petitioner NPC installed high-tension electrical
transmission lines of 69 kilovolts (KV) traversing the trail which was regularly used by residents
of Dalicno leading to Sangilo, Itogon. Unfortunately, some of the transmission lines were sagged
and dangled reducing their distance from the ground to only about 8-10 ft. which posed a great
threat to passersby especially on wet season. The leaders of the Ampucao, Itogon then made a
verbal and written requests for the NPC to provide safety measures and appropriate repairs of
high tension wires relating an incident where one boy was nearly electrocuted. The request was
responded with a letter by Engr. Paterno Banayot to the community leaders stating their possible
rerouting scheme with an estimated cost of 1.7 million pesos.

On June 27, 1995, the victim, Noble Casionan, who was only 19 years old, was
electrocuted as they passed by underneath the transmission lines when the tip of the bamboo
pole he was carrying touched one of the dangling high tension wires. Melchor Jimenez, his co-
pocket miner and who was behind him, said that there was a buzzing sound for about 1 or 2
seconds when the incident happened. He then saw Noble fell on the ground and was already
dead. After this, the NPC repaired the dangling and sagging transmission lines and put up warning
signs around the area.

Consequently, the heirs of Noble, Jose and Linda Casionan, filed a claim for damages
against the NPC before Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Benguet. At the trial, the NPC denied from
being negligent and even stated that there were installed warning signs but were stolen by
children. The excavations were also made to increase the necessary clearance from the ground
about 17-18 ft. but some poles sank due to pocket mining. Also, the victim’s death was not due
to electrocution since he did not suffer extensive burns so they counter-claimed for attorney’s fees
and cost of litigation.

However, on February 17, 1998, the RTC decided in favor of plaintiffs and against the
defendant NPC. The RTC declared that NPC was guilty of Negligence and ordered them to pay
the heirs of Noble for the following damages: P50,000 as indemnity for death, P100,000 as moral
damages, P50,000 as exemplary damages, P52,277.50 as actual damages for the expenses of
burial and wake in, P720,000 as loss of unearned income, and P20,000 as attorney’s fees and
the cost of suit. The counter-claim of the NPC was also dismissed for the lack of merit.

Disagreeing with the ruling of the trial court, NPC elevated the case to the CA. On June
30, 2004, the CA promulgated its decision, disposing as follows: The appealed Decision is hereby
affirmed with the modification that the amount of moral damages is reduced to P50,000 from
P100,000 and disallowed the attorney’s fees of P20,000.

Unbiasedly, the issues for Our consideration were presented as follow: [1] To delete or
mitigate the damages awarded by the trial and appellate courts in view of what petitioner alleges
to be contributory negligence on the part of the victim since Noble’s death from being electrocuted
was not contested and thus, the liability of petitioner must stay. [2] Petitioner’s contentions are
absurd. [3] The sagging lines which were only around 8-10 ft. above the ground violates the
required distance of 18-20 ft. [4] There was a failure to properly maintain the wires. [5] Revealed
in the investigation, the locomotive’s derailment was caused by protruding rails which had come
loose because they were not connected and fixed in place by fish plates. [6] There was no
contributory negligence on Noble’s part since there was no intent to harm himself. [7] Noble should
not be faulted for simply doing what was the residents’ ordinary routine although pocket mining is
prohibited in the area. [8] The award of moral damages is reduced. [9] The award of attorney’s
fees is deleted because the reason for the award was not expressly stated in the body of the
decision. Wherefore, the petition is DENIED and the appealed decision of the Court of Appeals
AFFIRMED.