When a carrier fails to establish any caso fortuito, the presumption by law of fault or negligence on the part of the carrier applies.
- 13 coils of uncoated 7-wire stress relived wire strand for prestressed concrete were shipped on board the vessel “Japri Venture” (owned by Easter Shipping Lines) for delivery to Stresstek Post-Tensioning Phils. in Manila. The cargo was insured by First Nationwide Assurance Corporation (FNAC).
- The vessel arrived in Manila and discharged the cargo to the custody of E.Razon Inc., from whom the consignee’s customs broker received it for delivery to the consignee’s warehouse.
- It appears that while en route to Manila, the vessel encountered very rough seas and stormy weather and the cargo stored in the lower hatch of the vessel was flooded with water about one foot deep. That upon survey, it was found that several coils were rusty on one side and that the wetting of the cargo was caused by fresh water that entered the hatch when the vessel encountered heavy weather.
- FNAC paid Stresstek about Php 172K for damage and loss to the insured cargo.
- Being subrogated to the rights of Stresstek, FNAC now seeks o recover from Eastern what it has indemnified Stresstek less the salvage value of the goods, or the total of about Php 124K.
- The RTC ordered for the dismissal of the case.
Upon appeal, the CA held that Eastern is liable to FNAC.
Whether Easter should be held liable even if it claims that the shipment was discharged and delivered complete into the custody of the arrastre operator under clean tally sheets.
- YES. In arriving at the decision, the SC agreed with the CA on its findings and conclusions.
- The heavy seas and rains referred to in the master’s report were not caso fortuito, but normal occurrences that an ocean going vessel, particularly in the month of September which, in our area, is a month of rains and heavy seas would encounter as a matter of routine. They are not unforeseen nor unforeseeable. These are conditions that ocean-going vessels would encounter and provide for, in the ordinary course of voyage.
- The rain water (not sea water) found its way into Japri Venture is a clear indication that care and foresight did not attend the closing of the ship’s hatches so that rain water would not find its way into the cargo,
- Since Easter has failed to establish any caso fortuito, the presumption of fault or negligence on the part of the carrier applies; and the carrier must present evidence that it has observed the extraordinary diligence required in Art. 1733 to escape liability.
The SC held that the presumption that the cargo was in apparent good condition when it was delivered by the vessel to the arrastre operation by the clean tally sheets has been overturned. The evidence is clear to the effect that the damage to the cargo was suffered while aboard petitioner’s vessel.