November 29, 2965


RP is the beneficiary of 93 cases of dry skimmed milk from the UNICEF for distribution to children.  Defendant Luzon Brokerage has been contracted by RP to handle the warehousing and transshipment of the milk to feeding agencies in different parts of the Philippines.

Luzon Brokerage shipped through the shipping broker of defendant Hijos de Escano (Escano) the 93 cases of milk on board a vessel owned and operated by Escano for Southern Leyte.  The shipment was consigned to the Bontoc Rural Health Unit in Southern Leyte in the care of Mrs. Tacardon.  Bontoc is a municipality in Southern Leyte which is about 24 kilometers from Malitbog.

The shipment arrived in Malitbog on Jan 19.  Mrs. Tacardon received copies of the bill of lading on Jan 24 from Luzon Brokerage, with a letter telling her to take delivery of the shipment.  By failure of Mrs. Tacardon to claim the shipment upon arrival, it was deposited in a warehouse of Escano.   On Jan. 28, the branch manager of Escano met Mrs. Tacardon in front of the municipal building and the former reiterated to the latter to take delivery of the shipment.  But before claim for the delivery of the cargo could be made, the entire cargo were burned on Jan 31 as a result of a fire which broke out in a house near the said bodega.

As a result, RP instituted an action against Luzon Brokerage, the shipping broker, and Escano for the recovery of the value of the milk which was burned.

Lower court held that since the consignee has been advised of the arrival and has had reasonable time to remove them (from Jan 28 – Jan 31), defendant is relieved from extraordinary diligence and the loss of the shipment was due to force majeure.

1.      W/N the lower court erred in holding that Mrs. Tacardon was negligent in failing to take delivery of the cargo within reasonable time from arrival thereof at the port of consignment – NO

2.      W/N the lower court erred in holding that the loss and destruction of the shipment was due to force majeure by reason of which exempts it from liability. – NO

1.    According to Art. 1736 of the Civil Code, the extraordinary responsibility of the carrier lasts from the time the goods are unconditionally placed in the possession of, and received by the carrier for transportation until the same are delivered, actually or constructively, by the carrier to the consignee or to the person who has a right to receive them, without prejudice to Art. 1738.  This article provides that the extraordinary liability of the common carrier continues to be operative even during the time the goods are stored in a warehouse of the carrier at the place of destination, until the consignee has been advised of the arrival of the goods and has had reasonable opportunity thereafter to remove them or otherwise dispose of them.

In the instant case, Mrs. Tacardon admitted having received notice of such arrival when she received copies of the bill of lading on Jan. 24 with advice to take delivery of the goods.  On Jan. 28, she was personally told by the manager of the carrier companyto take delivery of the goods.  It was incumbent upon Mrs. Tacardon to take delivery of the shipment within a reasonable time from Jan. 24.  Notice by the carrier that the cargo had already arrived, thereby placing the same at the disposal of the shipper or consignee, amounts to a constructive delivery of the cargo which automatically released the carrier of the extraordinary responsibility.  Thus, when the goods were destroyed by fire, the duty to exercise extraordinary diligence on the part of the carrier for vigilance of the goods had already ceased.

RP contends that there was no negligence on not being able to take delivery on Jan. 24 because on that day, Mrs. Tacardon had to attend to a difficult case of delivery of a patient which required her present elsewhere up to Jan. 26, and then Jan. 27 was a Sunday. However, the Court ruled that the shipper cannot defer taking the goods away in order to attend to another matters of its own, no matter how important they may be.  Otherwise, the continuance of the extraordinary liability of the carrier would be dependent upon causes of which it has no intervention and not of its own making.

2.      The rule is that the carrier may be absolved of liability for the destruction of the cargo if it can show that the goods were lost, destroyed, or deteriorated by reason of any of the causes in art. 1734.  Here, the cargo was destroyed by a fortuitous event in the form of a fire which broke out not in the warehouse but in a nearby house which spread to the bodega because it was windy and the municipality did not have fire-fighting equipment and despite efforts exerted to put the fire out by the men of Escano.  Thus, the carrier is not

We find no merit in the argument that fire is not among the causes enumerated in Art. 1734.  Said article makes mention of “other natural disaster or calamity” and this has reference to extraordinary fortuitous events which according to para. 2 of Art. 1680 includes fire, the cause of which, is not imputable to the fault of the carrier, as in the instant case.