Municipality of San Fernando vs. Firme
MUNICIPALITY OF SAN FERNANDO, LA UNION, petitioner
HON. JUDGE ROMEO N. FIRME, JUANA RIMANDO-BANIÑA, IAUREANO BANIÑA, JR., SOR MARIETA BANIÑA, MONTANO BANIÑA, ORJA BANIÑA, AND LYDIA R. BANIÑA, respondents.
195 SCRA 692
April 8, 1991
Petitioner Municipality of San Fernando, La Union, is a municipality corporation. Respondent Judge Romeo N. Firme is impleaded in his official capacity as the presiding judge, while private respondents are heirs of the deceased Laureano Banina, Sr.
On December 16, 1965, a collision occurred involving a passenger jeep, a gravel and sand truck, and a dump truck of the Municipality of San Fernando, La Union which was driven by Alfredo Bislig. Due to the impact, several passengers of the jeep including Banina, Sr. died.
The heir of Banina, Sr. instituted a complaint for damages against the owner and driver of the passenger jeep. However, the previously mentioned defendant filed a third party complaint against the petitioner and the driver of the dump truck of the petitioner.
Thereafter, the private respondents amended the complaint wherein the petitioner and its regular employee Alfredo Bislig were impleaded for the first time as defendants.
Petitioner filed its answer and raised affirmative defenses such as lack of cause of action, non-suability of the state, prescription of cause of action, and the negligence of the owner and driver of the passenger jeep as the proximate cause of the collision.
On October 10, 1979, the trial court rendered a decision for the plaintiffs, and defendants Municipality of san Fernando, La Union and Alfredo Bislig are ordered to pay jointly and severally the plaintiffs. The complaint against the driver and the owner of the passenger jeep was dismissed.
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration and for a new trial. However, respondent judge issued another order denying the motion for reconsideration of the order for having been filed out of time. Hence, this petition.
Whether the municipality is liable for the tort committed by its employee?
NO. The test of liability of the municipality depends on whether or not the driver acting in behalf of the municipality is performing governmental or proprietary functions.
It has already been remarked that municipal corporations are suable because their charters grant them the competence to sue and be sued. Nevertheless, they are generally not liable for torts committed by them in the discharge of governmental functions and can be held answerable only if it can be shown that they were acting in a proprietary capacity.
In permitting such entities to be sued, the state merely gives the claimants the right to show the defendant was not acting in its governmental capacity when the injury was inflicted or that the case comes under the exceptions recognized by law. Failing this, the claimants cannot recover.
In the case at bar, the driver of the dump truck of the municipality insists that he was on his way to Naguilan River to get a load of sand and gravel for the repair of the San Fernando municipal street.
In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the regularity of the performance of official duty is presumed. Hence, the driver of the dump truck was performing duties or tasks pertaining to his office.
After careful examination of existing laws and jurisprudence, we arrive at the conclusion that the municipality cannot be held liable for the torts committed by its regular employee, who was then engaged in the discharge of governmental functions. Hence, the death of the passenger, tragic and deplorable though, it may be imposed on the municipality no duty to pay the monetary compensation.
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