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Jarco Marketing Corporation v.

Court of Appeals, 321 SCRA 325

Facts:
• Petitioner Jarco Marketing Corporation is the owner of Syvel’s Department Store,
Makati City. Petitioners Leonardo Kong, Jose Tiope and Elisa Panelo are the store’s
branch manager, operations manager, and supervisor, respectively. Private
respondents are spouses and the parents of Zhieneth Aguilar (Zhieneth).
• In the afternoon of 9 May 1983, Criselda and Zhieneth were at the 2nd floor of
Syvel’s Department Store, Makati City. Criselda was signing her credit card slip at
the payment and verification counter when she felt a sudden gust of wind and heard a
loud thud. She looked behind her. She then saw Zhieneth on the floor crushed by
bulk of the store’s gift-wrapping counter/structure. Although shocked, Criselda was
quick to ask the assistance of the people around in lifting the counter and retrieving
Zhieneth from the floor.
• Zhieneth was rushed to the hospital. She lived through the operation but lost her
ability to speak. She then died two weeks later due to the injuries she sustained.
• Respondents demanded the reimbursement of hospitalization, medical bills and wake
and funeral expenses they incurred from the petitioners. The petitioners refused to
pay. Thus, respondents filed a civil case to recover P157522.86 as actual damages,
P300,000.00 as moral damages and P20,000.00 in attorney’s fees.
• In their defense, petitioners claimed that Criselda was negligent for allowing her
daughter to freely roam around the Department Store. They also claimed that
Zhieneth was guilty of contributory negligence by climbing onto the counter which
later fell on her causing her untimely death.
• Respondents on the other hand claim that Criselda was not guilty of negligence as it
was natural for her to leave Criselda when she was signing her credit card slip. They
argue that Zhieneth is not presumed to be guilty of contributory negligence as she was
only 6 years old at that time and that her dying declaration as testified to by the doctor
was that the counter just fell on her without her climbing onto it. Respondents also
argue that the structure should have been nailed to the floor to prevent incidents like
this.
• As to the claim that the counter should have been nailed, they claim that it was
unnecessary as it had been in existence for many years without incident. Further,
petitioners claim that the criminal case for simple negligence filed against them has
been dismissed and that a verdict of acquittal issued in their favour.
• Trial court dismissed the complaint but the Court of Appeals reversed.

Issue: WON petitioners may be held liable for the death of Zhieneth.

Held:
• YES. An accident pertains to an unforeseen event in which no fault or negligence
attaches to the defendant. It is “a fortuitous circumstance, event or happening; an
event happening without any human agency, or if happening wholly or partly through
human agency, an event which under the circumstances is unusual or unexpected by
the person to whom it happens.
• While negligence is the omission to do something which a reasonable man, guided by
those considerations which ordinarily regulate the conduct of human affairs, would
do, or the doing of something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do.
Negligence is “the failure to observe, for the protection of the interest of another
person, that degree of care, precaution and vigilance which the circumstances justly
demand, whereby such other person suffers injury.” The test of is: Did the defendant
in doing the alleged negligent act use that reasonable care and caution which an
ordinarily prudent person would have used in the same situation? If not, then he is
guilty of negligence.
• Zhieneth’s dying statement before being rushed to into the operating room that she
did not do anything but merely approached the counter forms part of the res gestae in
accordance with Section 42 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. It is axiomatic that
matters relating to declarations of pain or suffering and statements made to a
physician are generally considered declarations and admissions.
• Further, the negligence of the petitioners was proven by the testimony of their
employees who testified that the counter was heavy, shaky and could collapse at any
time. It was verified that the counter was not nailed which further aggravated the
counter’s instability. Worse, such condition was brought to the attention of the store
supervisor but no action was taken to address it. Verily, such shows a blatant failure
to exercise the diligence of a good father of a family.
• Both Criselda and Zhieneth are not guilty of contributory negligence. Zhieneth, a 6
year old enjoys the presumption that she is incapable of committing contributory
negligence. Petitioners failed to rebut such presumption. Further, Criselda was not
guilty of contributory negligence as it was only natural for her to let go of Zhieneth to
sign her credit card slip.
Judgment of the Court of Appeals affirmed