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Apr 30, 2008

Negligence Defined

Negligence – conduct that creates undue risk of harm to another. It is the failure to observe that degree of care, precaution and vigilance that the circumstances justly demand, whereby that other person suffers injury. (Smith Bell Dodwell Shipping Agency Corp. v. Borja, G.R. No. 143008, June 10, 2002)

- want of care required by the circumstances. It is a relative or comparative, not an absolute term, and its application depends upon the situation of the parties, and the degree of care and vigilance which the circumstances reasonably impose. Where the danger is great a high degree of care is necessary, and the failure to observe it is a want of ordinary care under the circumstances. (US v. Juanillo, G.R. No. 7255, Oct. 3, 1912)


  • Reasonable foresight of harm
  • Failure to take necessary precaution

(1) Test of Negligence

Picart v. Smith, 37 PHIL 809 (1918)

The test by which to determine the existence of negligence in a particular case may be stated as follows: Did the defendant in doing the alleged negligent act use that reasonable care and caution which an ordinarily prudent person would have used in the same situation? If not, then he is guilty of negligence. The law here in effect adopts the standard supposed to be supplied by the imaginary conduct of the discreet pater familias of the Roman law. The existence of negligence in a given case is not determined by reference to the personal judgment of the actor in the situation before him. The law considers what would be reckless, blameworthy, or negligent in the man of ordinary intelligence and prudence and determines liability by that.


Must be always determined in the light of human experience and in view of the facts involved in the particular case

(2) Application

Ylarde v. Aquino, G.R. No. L-33722, July 29, 1988


We cannot agree with the finding of the lower court that the injuries which resulted in the death of the child Ylarde were caused by his own reckless imprudence. It should be remembered that he was only ten years old at the time of the incident. As such, he is expected to be playful and daring. His actuations were natural to a boy his age. Xxx The degree of care required to be exercised must vary with the capacity of the person endangered to care for himself. A minor should not be held to the same degree of care as an adult, but his conduct should be judged according to the average conduct of persons of his age and experience. The standard of conduct to which a child must conform for his own protection is that degree of care ordinarily exercised by children of the same age, capacity, discretion, knowledge and experience under the same or similar circumstances.

US v. Juanillo, G.R. No. 7255, Oct. 3, 1912


Two native farmers who all their lives have seen nothing that moves faster than a bull cart, except on the two or three occasions on which they testify they have visited Iloilo, cannot be expected to give an intelligent idea of speed of an automobile, train, or even a fast horse. Xxx…finding himself alone on the right hand side, which had been the most accessible to him at the moment, it would be perfectly natural for an ignorant farmer at such a, to him, hazardous moment to decide suddenly to cross and join his companions on the other side. And it is not surprising if such a man should miscalculate the time necessary for an automobile, even running at only a very slow pace, to cover an intervening distance.


A driver of an automobile,under such circumstances, is required to use a greater degree of care than drivers of animals, for the reason that the machine is capable of greater destruction, and furthermore, it is absolutely under the power and control of the driver; whereas, a horse or other animal can and does to some extent aid in averting an accident. It is not pleasant to be obliged to slow down automobiles to accommodate persons riding, driving, or walking. It is probably more agreeable to send the machine along and the let the horse or person get out of the way in the best manner possible; but it is well to understand, if this course is adopted and accident occurs, that the automobile driver will be called upon to account for his acts. An automobile driver must at all times use all the care and caution which a careful and prudent driver would have exercised under the circumstances.

Associated Bank v. Tan, G.R. No. 156940, Dec. 14, 2004


The degree of diligence required of banks is more than that of a good father of the family where the fiduciary nature of their relationship with their depositors is concerned.

Did petitioner treat respondent’s account with the highest degree of care? From all indications, it did not.

It is undisputed – nay, even admitted – that purportedly as an act of accommodation to a valued client, the petitioner allowed the withdrawal of the face value of the deposited check prior to its clearing. That act certainly disregarded the clearance requirement of the banking system. Such a practice is unusual, because a check is not legal tender or money; and its value can properly be transferred to depositor’s account only after the check has been cleared by the drawee bank.

Pangonorom v. People, G.R. No. 143380, April 11, 2005


The issue of whether a person is negligent is a question of fact. Xxx Article 356 of the Revised Penal Code states that reckless imprudence consists in voluntarily, but without malice, doing or failing to do an act from which material damage results by reason of inexcusable lack of precaution on the part of the person performing or omitting to perform such act, taking into consideration: (1) his employment or occupation; (2) his degree of intelligence; (3) his physical condition; and (4) other circumstances regarding persons, time and place.

Elements of Quasi-delict

  • Damages suffered by the plaintiff;
  • Fault or negligence of the defendant, or some other person for whose acts he must respond; and
  • The connection of cause and effect between the fault or negligence of the defendant and the damages incurred by the plaintiff

Proximate Cause

Proximate Cause – that cause which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury and without which the result would not have occurred. Proximate cause is determined by the facts of each case upon mixed considerations of logic, common sense, policy and precedent. (American Express International Inc. v. Cordero, G.R. No. 138550, Oct. 14, 2005)

Phil. Bank of Commerce v. CA, G.R. No. 97626, March 14, 1997


Rommel’s Marketing Corporation (RMC) maintained two separate current accounts with PBC in connection with its business of selling appliances. The RMC General Manager Lipana entrusted to his secretary, Irene Yabut, RMC funds amounting to P300,000+ for the purpose of depositing the same to RMC’s account with PBC. However, it turned out that Yabut deposited the amounts in her husband’s account instead of RMC. Lipana never checked his monthly statement of accounts regularly furnished by PBC so that Yabut’s modus operandi went on for the span of more than one year.


  • What is the proximate cause of the loss – Lipana’s negligence in not checking his monthly statements or the bank’s negligence through its teller in validating the deposit slips?


The bank teller was negligent in validating, officially stamping and signing all the deposit slips prepared and presented by Yabut, despite the glaring fact that the duplicate copy was not completely accomplished contrary to the self-imposed procedure of the bank with respect to the proper validation of deposit slips, original or duplicate.

The bank teller’s negligence, as well as the negligence of the bank in the selection and supervision of its bank teller, is the proximate cause of the loss suffered by the private respondent, not the latter’s entrusting cash to a dishonest employee. Xxx Even if Yabut had the fraudulent intention to misappropriate the funds, she would not have been able to deposit those funds in her husband’s current account, and them make plaintiff believe that it was in the latter’s accounts wherein she had deposited them, had it not been for the bank teller’s aforesaid gross and reckless negligence.

Doctrine of Last Clear Chance – where both parties are negligent, but the negligent act of one is appreciably later in time than that of the other, or when it is impossible to determine whose fault or negligence should be attributed to the incident, the one who had the last clear opportunity to avoid the impending harm and failed to do so is chargeable with the consequences thereof. It means that the antecedent negligence of a person does not preclude the recovery of damages for the supervening negligence of, or bar a defense against liability sought by another, if the latter, who had the last fair chance, could have avoided the impending harm by exercise of due diligence. (Phil. Bank of Commerce v. CA, supra)

- the contributory negligence of the party injured will not defeat the claim for damages if it is shown that the defendant might, by the exercise of reasonable care and prudence, have avoided the consequences of the negligence of the injured party. In such cases, the person who had the last clear chance to avoid the mishap is considered in law solely responsible for the consequences thereof. (McKee v. IAC, G.R. No. 68102, July 16, 1992)

Q: When may a person be held liable for his negligent act?
A: A person may be held liable for his negligent act if such is the proximate cause of the injury, even though it is merely one of many concurring efficient causes.

Far Eastern Shipping Co. v. CA, G.R. No. 130068, Oct. 1, 1998

As a general rule, negligence in order to render a person liable need not be the sole cause of an injury. It is sufficient that his negligence, concurring with one or more efficient causes other than plaintiff’s, is the proximate cause of the injury. Accordingly, where several causes combine to produce injuries, a person is not relieved from liability because he is responsible for only one of them, it being sufficient that the negligence of the person charged with injury is an efficient cause without which the injury would not have resulted to as great an extent, and that such cause is not attributable to the person injured.


It is no defense to one of the concurrent tortfeasors that the injury would not have resulted from his negligence alone, without the negligence or wrongful acts of the other concurrent tortfeasor. Where several causes producing an injury are concurrent and each is an efficient cause without which the injury would not have happened, the injury may be attributed to all or any of the causes and recovery may be had against any or all of the responsible persons although under the circumstances of the case, it may appear that one of them was more culpable, and that the duty owed by them to the injured person was not the same. No actor’s negligence ceases to be a proximate cause merely because it does not exceed the negligence of other actors. Each wrongdoer is responsible for the entire result and is liable as though his acts were the sole cause of the injury.

Contributory Negligence – where both the plaintiff and the defendant are negligent, the damages to be awarded may be reduced by the courts (Thermochem Inc. v. Naval, G.R. No. 131541, Oct. 20, 2000)

Burden of Proof

Q: Who has the burden of proving that the defendant was negligent?
A: As a general rule, the person alleging negligence has the burden of proving the same. But there are two notable exceptions to the rule: (1) where the law itself provides for instances where negligence is presumed; and (2) when the thing speaks for itself (res ipsa loquitor).


(1) Presumption of Negligence

Art. 2184: “It is disputably presumed that a driver was negligent, if he had been found guilty of reckless driving or violating traffic regulations at least twice within the next preceding two months.”

Art. 2185: “Unless there is proof to the contrary, it is presumed that person driving a motor vehicle has been negligent if at the time of the mishap, he was violating any traffic regulation.”

Kapalaran Bus Line v. Coronado, G.R. No. 85331, Aug. 25, 1989

Kapalaran’s driver had become aware that some vehicles ahead of the bus and traveling in the same direction had already stopped at the intersection obviously to give way either to pedestrians or to another vehicle about to enter the intersection. The bus driver, who was driving at a speed too high to be safe and proper at or near an intersection on the highway, and in any case too high to be able to slow down and stop behind the cars which had preceded it and which had stopped at the intersection, chose to swerve to the left lane and overtake such preceding vehicles, entered the intersection and directly smashed into the jeepney within the intersection. Immediately before the collision, the bus driver was actually violating the following traffic rules and regulations, among others, in the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, Republic Act No. 4136, as amended. Thus, a legal presumption arose tha the bus driver was negligent, a presumption that Kapalaran was unable to overthrow.

Anonuevo v. CA, G.R. No. 130003, Oct. 20, 2004

The applicability of Art. 2185 is expressly qualified to motor vehicles only, and there is no ground to presume that the law intended a broader coverage.


The generally accepted view is that the violation of a statutory duty constitutes negligence, negligence as a matter of law, or negligence per se. The mere fact of violation of a statute is not sufficient basis for an inference that such violation was the proximate cause of the injury complained. However, if the very injury has happened which was intended to be prevented by the statute, it has been held that violation of the statute will be deemed to be the proximate cause of the injury.

The non-observance of what the legislature has prescribed as a suitable precaution is failure to observe that care which an ordinarily prudent man would observe, and, when the state regards certain acts as so liable to injure others as to justify their absolute prohibition, doing the forbidden act is a breach of duty with respect to those who may be injured thereby; or, as it has been otherwise expressed, when the standard of care is fixed by law, failure to conform to such standard is negligence, negligence per se, or negligence in and of itself, in the absence of a legal excuse. According to this view it is immaterial, where a statute has been violated, whether the act or omission constituting such violation would have been regarded as negligence in the absence of any statute on the subject or whether there was, as a matter of fact, any reason to anticipate that injury would result from such violation.


But the existence of an ordinance changes the situation. If a driver causes an accident by exceeding the speed limit, for example, we do not inquire whether his prohibited conduct was unreasonably dangerous. It is enough that it was prohibited. Violation of an ordinance intended to promote safety is negligence. If by creating the hazard which the ordinance was intended to avoid it brings about the harm which the ordinance was intended to prevent, it is a legal cause of the harm.
The general principle is that the violation of a statute or ordinance is not rendered remote as the cause of an injury by the intervention of another agency if the occurrence of the accident, in the manner in which it happened, was the very thing which the statute or ordinance was intended to prevent.


Causal connection between the injury and the violation of the traffic rule should be established for liability to attach.

Art. 2188: “There is prima facie presumption of negligence on the part of the defendant if the death or injury results from his possession of dangerous weapons or substances, such as firearms and poison, except when the possession or use thereof is indispensable in his occupation or business.”

(2) Res Ipsa Loquitur


  • arises when no direct evidence is available
  • applicable to pure (non-contractual) torts
  • CAVEAT: no contributory negligence in the one invoking

  • instrumentality is within the management and exclusive control of the defendant
  • the injury would have happened in the ordinary course of things if the defendant was not negligent

Layugan v. IAC, G.R. No. 73998, Nov. 14, 1988


Where the thing which causes injury is shown to be under the management of the defendant, and the accident is such as in the ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have the management use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of any explanation by the defendant, that the accident arose from want of care.


Res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. Rebuttable presumption or inference that defendant was negligent, which arises upon proof that instrumentality causing injury was in defendant’s exclusive control, and that the accident was one which ordinarily does not happen in the absence of negligence.


The doctrine of Res ipsa loquitur as a rule of evidence is peculiar to the law of negligence which recognizes that prima facie negligence may be established without direct proof and furnishes a substitute for specific proof of negligence. The doctrine is not a rule of substantive law but merely a mode of proof or a mere procedural convenience. It merely determines and regulates what shall be prima facie evidence thereof and facilitates the burden of plaintiff of proving a breach of the duty of due care. The doctrine can only be invoked when and only when, under the circumstances involved, direct evidence is absent and not readily available.

Sps. Africa v. Caltex (Phil) Inc., G.R. No. L-12986, March 31, 1966


While it is the rule that in case of non-contractual negligence or culpa aquiliana, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to establish that the proximate cause of his injury was the negligence of the defendant, it is also a recognized principle that “where the thing which caused injury, without fault of the injured person, is under the exclusive control of the defendant and the injury is such as in the ordinary course of things does not occur if those having such control use proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of the explanation that the injury arose from defendant’s want of care.”

FGU Insurance Corp v. G.P. Sarmiento Trucking Corp., G.R. No. 141910, Aug. 6, 2002


a) the event is of a kind which does not ordinarily occur in the absence of negligence; b) other responsible causes, including the conduct of the plaintiff and third persons, are sufficiently eliminated by the evidence; and c) the indicated negligence is within the scope of the defendant’s duty to the plaintiff.

Res ipsa loquitur generally finds relevance whether or not a contractual relationship exists between the plaintiff and the defendant, for the inference of negligence arises from the circumstances and nature of the occurrence and not from the nature of the relation of the parties. Nevertheless, the requirement that responsible causes other than those due to defendant’s conduct must first be eliminated, for the doctrine to apply, should be understood as being confined only to cases of pure tort (non-contractual) since obviously the presumption of negligence in culpa contractual immediately attaches by a failure of the covenant or its tenor.

Q: When there is no direct proof of negligence, does res ipsa loquitur automatically apply?
A: No, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur does not automatically apply. The party invoking the doctrine must first establish that there is no direct proof of negligence AVAILABLE. Only after establishing that may he rely upon the inferences under res ipsa loquitur.

Q: Why is the doctrine inapplicable in culpa contractual?
A: Because in culpa contractual, the breach of the contract is already an act of presumed negligence. The contract governs the conduct of the parties so that if there is a breach, all that the plaintiff needs to prove is the existence of the contract and the breach thereof.


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