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May 2, 2008

G.R. No. 141538, March 23, 2004

  • TORTS: Presumption of Negligence: Employer's Vicarious Liability v. Subsidiary Liability


Noontime, June 26, 1993 -- A Country Bus Lines passenger bus collided with a tricycle in Pampanga. The driver of the tricycle Tuazon filed a complaint for damages against Mrs. Cerezo, the owner of the bus lines, her husband, Atty. Cerezo, and bus driver Foronda.

According to the facts alleged in the complaint, Tuazon was driving on the proper lane. There was a "Slow Down" sign which Foronda ignored. After the complaint was filed, alias summons was served upon the person of Atty. Cerezo, the Tarlac Provincial Prosecutor.

In their reply, Mrs. Cerezo contended that the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction because there was no service of summons on Foronda. Moreover, Tuazon failed to reserve his right to institute a separate civil action for damages in the criminal action.


  • Whether or not Mrs. Cerezo is liable for damages


Mrs. Cerezo's contention is wrong. Tuazon's case is not based on criminal law but on quasi-delict under the Civil Code.

The same negligent act may produce civil liability arising from a delict under Art. 103, RPC, or may give rise to an action for quasi-delict under Art. 2180, C.C. An aggrieved party may choose between the two remedies. An action based on quasi-delict may proceed independently from the criminal action. There is, however, a distinction between civil liability arising from a delict and civil liability arising from a quasi-delict. The choice of remedy whether to sue for a delict or a quasi-delict, affects the procedural and jurisdictional issues of the action.

Tuazon's action is based on quasi-delict under Art. 2180: Employer's liability.

Foronda is not an indispensable party, contrary to Mrs. Cerezo's contention. An indispensable party is one whose interest is affected by the court's action in the litigation, and without whom no final resolution of the case is possible. However, Mrs. Cerezo's liability as an employer in action for quasi-delict is not only solidary, it is also primary and direct.

The responsibility of two or more persons who are liable for a quasi-delict is solidary. Where there is a solidary liability on the part of the debtors, as in this case, each debtor is liable for the entire obligation. Hence, each debtor is liable to pay for the entire obligation in full. There is no merger or renunciation of rights, but only mutual representation. Where the obligation of the parties is solidary, either of the parties is indispensable, and the other is not even a necessary party because complete relief is available from either. Therefore, jurisdiction over Foronda is not even necessary as Tuazon may collect from Mrs. Cerezo alone.

Moreover, an employer's liability based on a quasi-delict is primary and direct, while the employer's liability based on a delict is merely subsidiary. The words "primary and direct," as contrasted with "subsidiary," refers to the remedy provided by law for enforcing the obligation rather than to the character and limits of the obligation. Although liability under Art. 2180 originates from the negligent act of the employee, the aggrieved party may sue the employer directly. When an employee causes damage, the law presumes that the employer has himself committed an act of negligence in not preventing or avoiding the damage. This is the fault that the law condemns. While the employer is civilly liable in a subsidiary capacity for the employee's criminal negligence, the employer is also civilly liable directly and separate for his own civil negligence in failing to exercise due diligence in selecting and supervising his employee. The idea that the employer's liability is wholly subsidiary is wrong.

The action can be brought directly against the person responsible (for another) without including the author of the act. The action against the principal is accessory in the sense that it implies the existence of a prejudicial act committed by the employee, but is not subsidiary in the sense that it cannot be instituted till after the judgment against he author of the act or at least, that it is subsidiary to the principal action; action for responsibility (of the employer) is in itself a principal action.

In contrast, an action based on a delict seeks to enforce the subsidiary liability of the employer for the criminal negligence of the employee as provided in Art. 103, RPC. To hold the employer liable in a subsidiary capacity under a delict, the aggrieved party must initiate a criminal action where the employee's delict and corresponding primary liability are established. If the present action proceeds from a delict, then the trial court's jurisdiction over Foronda is necessary.

However, the action filed by Tuazon was based on a quasi-delict, which is separate and independent from an action based on a delict. Hence, there was no need to reserve the filing of a separate civil action. The purpose of allowing the filing the of an independent action based on quasi-delict against the employer is to facilitate the remedy for civil wrongs.


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