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L.G. Food Corporation & Victorino Gabor v. Hon. Philadelfa B. Pagapong-Agraviador & Sps.

Flontrentino and Teheresa Vallejera

GR No. 158995
September 26, 2006


On Feb. 26, 1996, Charles Vallejera (Charles), a 7-yr old son of the spouses Florentino Vallejera and
Theresa Vallejera (Sps. Vallejera), died as he was hit by a Ford Fiera van owned by LG Food Corp
(LG) and driven at the time by their employee, Vincent Norman Ferrer (Ferrer). An information for
Reckless Imprudence Resulting to Homicide was filed against the driver before the MTCC Bacolod
City. However, as the accused driver committed suicide, the case was dismissed.
Claiming that the petitioners should be held civilly liable as they failed to exercise the
necessary diligence required of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of their
employee, the sps. Vallejera later on filed a complaint for damages against them. LG on the other
hand, prayed, by way of an Answer w/ Compulsory Counterclaim, for the dismissal of the complaint.
They argued that they had exercised the required due diligence and maintained that for their liability
to attach their driver must first be convicted. Thus, since the driver died during the pendency of the
criminal action, the sine qua non condition for their subsidiary liability was not fulfilled. Hence, they
argued that there is lack of cause of action on the part of the Spouses. They also argued that since
the Spouses Vallejera did not make a reservation to institute a separate action for damages when
the criminal case was filed, the damage suit in question is thereby deemed instituted with the
criminal action w/c was already dismissed. The RTC and the CA both denied petitioner’s motion to
dismiss. Hence, this petition for review on certiorari.

Whether the spouses Vallejeras’ are correct in relying on the civil code in asserting their
claim for damages.

YES. From the allegations of their complaint, it is clear that quasi-delict was the spouses’
choice of remedy against the petitioners. An act or omission causing damage to another may give
rise to 2 separate civil liabilities on the part of the offender:

1) Civil liability ex delicto and

2) Independent civil liabilities, such as those
a) Not arising from an act or omission complained of as felony (culpa contractual or
obligations arising from law, intentional torts and culpa aquiliana) or
b) Where the injured party is granted a right to file an action independent and
distinct from the criminal action.

Either of these two possible liabilities may be enforced against the offender. The victims of
negligence or their heirs have a choice between an action to enforce the civil liability arising from
culpa criminal under Art. 100 of the RPC, and an action for quasi-delict (culpa aquiliana) under Arts
2176-2194 of the Civil Code.

The choice is with the plaintiff who makes known his cause of action in his initiatory pleading
or complaint and not with the defendant who cannot ask for the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case of
action or lack of it based on the defendant’s perception that the plaintiff should have opted to file
a claim under Art. 103, RPC.

If, as in this case, the action chosen is for quasi-delict, the plaintiff may hold the employer
liable for the negligent act of its employee, subject to the employer’s defense of exercise of the
diligence of a good father of the family. On the other hand, if the action chosen is for culpa criminal,
the plaintiff can hold the employer subsidiarily liable only upon proof of prior conviction of its
employee. According to Art. 2177, these are alternative remedies the plaintiff may choose from in
case the obligation has the possibility of arising indirectly from the crime or directly from tort.

Under Art. 2180 of the CC, the liability of the employer is direct/immediate. It is not
considered upon prior recourse against the negligent employee and a prior showing of insolvency
of such employee. Furthermore, the circumstance that no reservation to institute a separate civil
action for damages was made when the criminal case was filed is of no moment for the simple
reason that the criminal case was dismissed w/o any pronouncement having been made therein. In
reality, it is as if there was no criminal case to speak of in the first place.