Monday, November 24, 2014

Negligent persons who cause harm liable for damages

Dear PAO,
As I was passing by a salon last week, I was shocked to have been drenched in what seemed to me was foul-smelling water. One of the hairdressers of that salon was cleaning up and threw a bucket of water outside their window without even checking if there were people staying or passing by. I was so outraged because I was then on my way to work. I demanded to talk to the salon owner, but they refused to heed my demand. So, I decided to file a blotter to the nearest police station to document what happened to me. Upon reaching my house, I started noticing that my scalp was itching. The next day, hair strands started to fall off from my head, and now I have a small patch in my scalp for the lost hair.
Can I sue the hairdresser? Can I also sue the salon owner? I hope you can advice me.
Ms. Depressed
Dear Ms. Depressed,
Every person must act diligently so as to avoid injury to another person or another’s property. A person who causes damage to another or to the property of the latter may be held liable thereto to the extent as may be provided under the terms and stipulations agreed upon by them, should a contract exist between the parties, or in consonance with law, if there is no contractual relationship between them.
Accordingly, a person who throws a bucket of water outside his or her window may be held liable if he was negligent in his actions and such negligence caused damage or injury to a bystander or a passerby, similar to what happened to you. This is pursuant to Article 2176 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines, which provides: “Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called quasi-delict x x x”
The liability does not only extend to the perpetrator, but also to those responsible for them, as long as the former is performing his or her assigned tasks. As provided for under Article 2180 of the said law: “The obligation imposed by Article 2176 is demandable not only for one’s own acts or omissions, but also for those of persons for whom one is responsible. x x x Employers shall be liable for the damages caused by their employees and household helpers acting within the scope of their tasks, even though the former are not engaged in any business or industry. x x x”
However, it is still essential for you to establish that the injury you claim to have sustained, particularly the itching of your scalp as well as the small patch which was brought about by the falling off of your hair, was predominantly the result of the negligent act of the hairdresser. If you fail, however, to establish this or if it is later on shown that the injury you sustained was by reason of your own negligence, the award of damages may not prosper. According to Article 2179 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines: “When the plaintiff’s own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. But if his negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury being the defendant’s lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded.”
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to

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