Contributory Negligence is conduct on the part of the injured party, contributing as a legal cause to the harm he has suffered, which falls below the standard to which he is required to conform for his own protection
Sealoader executed a Time Charter Party Aggrement with Joyce Launch for the chartering of MT Viper in order to tow its unpropelled barges for a minimum of 15 days.
Sealoder entered into a contract with Grand Cement for the loading of cement clinkers and the delivery thereof to Manila. On March 31, 1994, Sealoder’s barge arrived at the wharf of Grand Cement tugged by MT Viper. It was not immediately loaded as the employees of Grand Cement were loaded another vessel.
On April 4, typhoon Bising struck Cebu area. The barge was still docked at the wharf of Grand Cement. As it became stronger, MT Viper tried to tow the barge away but it was unsuccessful because the towing line connecting the vessels snapped since the mooring lines were not cast off, which is the ultimate cause. Hence, the barge rammed the wharf causing significant damage.
Grand Cement filed a complaint for damages (P2.4M) since Sealoader ignored its demands. They allege that Sealoader was negligent when it ignored its employee’s advice to move the vessels after it had received weather updates. Sealoader filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that Joyce Launch is the one liable since it was the owner of MT Viper, who’s employees were manning the vessel. Sealoader filed a cross-claim against Joyce Launch. Joyce maintains that the damages were due to force majeure and faulted Grand Cement’s employees for abandoning the wharf leaving them helpless and for not warning them early on.
Upon testimonies, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Grand Cement holding the two companies liable since there was complete disregard of the storm signal, the captain of the vessel was not present and the vessel was not equipped with a radio or any navigational facility, which is mandatory. Joyce launch did not appeal.
On appeal, the CA affirmed the decision but on MR, it partly reversed its decision finding Grand Cement to be guilty of contributory negligence since it was found that it was still loading the other vessel at the last minute just before the storm hit, hence Sealoder’svessel did not move. Damages were reduced to 50%. Hence, petition for review to SC.
Who should be liable for damage sustained by the wharf of Grand Cement?
Sealoader is liable for its negligence. First because it was not equipped with a radio or a navigational facility and it failed to monitor the prevailing weather conditions. Second, it cannot pass the responsibility of casting off the mooring lines because the people at the wharf could not just cast off the mooring lines without any instructions from the crew of the vessel. It should have taken the initiative to cast off the mooring lines early on.
With regard to Grand Cement’s contributory negligence, the court found that it was not guilty thereof. It had timely informed the barge of the impending typhoon and directed the vessels to move to a safer place. Sealoader had the responsibility to inform itself of the prevailing weather conditions in the areas where its vessel was to sail. It cannot merely rely on other vessels for weather updates and warnings on approaching storms. For to do so would be to gamble with the safety of its own vessel, putting the lives of its crew under the mercy of the sea, as well as running the rick of causing damage to property of third parties for which it would necessarily be liable.