Liability of a Common Carrier

Dear PAO,

My husband and I started selling online last year because we were both laid off from our private jobs. We generally buy our products online from abroad and resell them once they reach us. Just recently, we hired a delivery company to collect our goods from the Port of Manila. Unfortunately the goods were lost due to suspected theft while in transit to us. We demanded payment from the company for the lost cargo but they refused to pay, insisting that they are not responsible for the loss of the cargoes as the vehicle used was not theirs and they have just outsourced. Are they really not responsible? Please advise.

Jasmine

Dear Jasmine,

According to the new Civil Code of the Philippines, common carriers engaged in the business of transporting passengers or goods or both are liable from the time the goods are put into their possession until the time they are delivered. . To be precise, the said Code provides:

” Art. 1732. Common carriers are persons, corporations, firms or associations engaged in the business of transporting or transporting persons or goods or both, by land, water or air, for remuneration, offering their services to the public.

“Art. 1733. Public carriers, by the nature of their activity and for reasons of public order, are required to observe extraordinary diligence in the vigilance of the goods and for the safety of the travelers they transport, according to all the circumstances of each case.

“This extraordinary diligence in the vigilance of the goods is further expressed in articles 1734, 1735 and 1745, nos. 5, 6 and 7, while the extraordinary diligence for the safety of passengers is further expressed in articles 1755 and 1756 .

” Art. 1734. Common carriers are liable for the loss, destruction or deterioration of goods, unless due to one of the following causes only: (1) Flood, storm, earthquake, lightning or other natural disaster or calamity; (2) Act of the public enemy in time of war, whether international or civil; (3) Act of omission by the consignor or owner of the goods; (4) Character of the goods or defects in the packaging or in the containers (5) Order or act of the competent public authority.

” Art. 1735. In all cases other than those mentioned in Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the preceding article, if the goods are lost, destroyed or damaged, the public carriers are presumed to be at fault or to have acted negligently, unless they prove that they observed the extraordinary diligence required in article 1733.

” Art. 1736. The extraordinary liability of the common carrier lasts from the time the goods are unconditionally put in possession and received by the carrier for carriage until they are delivered, actually or by implication, by the carrier to the consignee, or to whoever has the right to receive them, without prejudice to the provisions of article 1738.

Based on the previous provisions, you can hold the entity you contracted with liable for the value of lost property. They can only escape liability if they can prove that they exercised extraordinary diligence.

The fact that the vehicle used to transport your goods is not theirs but that of a third-party subcontractor does not relieve it of liability. This is clear from the Supreme Court’s decision in Torres-Madrid Brokerage, Inc. v. FEB Mitsui Marine Insurance Co., Inc. and Benjamin P. Manalastas/BMT Trucking Services (GR No. 194121, July 11, 2016, Ponente: former associate judge Arturo D. Brion):

“The fact that TMBI does not own trucks and has to contract out the delivery of goods from its customers, is irrelevant. As long as an entity presents itself to the public for the transportation of goods as a business, it is considered as a common carrier, regardless of whether he owns the vehicle used or has to rent one xxx

“Despite the subcontract, TMBI remained liable for the cargo. Under Section 1736, the common carrier’s extraordinary liability for shipper’s goods lasts from the time such goods are unconditionally taken into possession and received by the carrier for carriage, until delivered, actually or by implication, by the carrier to the consignee.

“The fact that the cargo disappeared during transit while in the custody of BMT – TMBI’s sub-contractor – did not diminish or terminate TMBI’s liability over the cargo. Section 1735 of the Civil Code presumes that she was at fault.”

We hope we were able to answer your questions. This advice is based solely on the facts you have related and our assessment of them. Our opinion may change when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily chronicle of the public ministry. Questions for Chef Acosta can be sent to [email protected]