Aboitiz Shipping v. CA (G.R. No. 84458)

Facts:

Anacleto Viana boarded the vessel M/V Antonia owned by petitioner Aboitiz Shipping Corp at the port at San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, bound for Manila. The vessel arrived at Pier 4, North Harbor, Manila and was taken over by Pioneer Stevedoring for the latter to unload the cargoes from the said vessel pursuant to their Memorandum of Agreement. An hour after the passengers and Viana had disembarked the vessel the crane operator began its unloading operation. While the crane was being operated, Viana who had already disembarked the vessel remembered that some of his cargoes were still loaded there. He went back and while he was pointing to the crew where his cargoes were, the crane hit him pinning him between the side of the vessel and the crane resulting to his death. A complaint for damages was filed against petitioner for breach of contract of carriage. Petitioner contends that Viana ceased to be a passenger when he disembarked the vessel and that consequently his presence there was no longer reasonable. CA affirmed the trial court’s order holding Aboitiz liable. Hence the petition.

Issue:

Whether or not petitioner is still responsible as a carrier to Viana after the latter had already disembarked the vessel.

Ruling: YES.

The rule is that the relation of carrier and passenger continues until the passenger has been landed at the port of destination and has left the vessel owner’s dock or premises. Once created, the relationship will not ordinarily terminate until the passenger has, after reaching his destination, safely alighted from the carrier’s conveyance or had a reasonable opportunity to leave the carrier’s premises. All persons who remain on the premises a reasonable time after leaving the conveyance are to be deemed passengers, and what is a reasonable time or a reasonable delay within this rule is to be determined from all the circumstances, and includes a reasonable time to see after his baggage and prepare for his departure. The carrier-passenger relationship is not terminated merely by the fact that the person transported has been carried to his destination if, for example, such person remains in the carrier’s premises to claim his baggage.

The primary factor to be considered is the existence of a reasonable cause as will justify the presence of the victim on or near the petitioner’s vessel. We believe there exists such a justifiable cause. When the accident occurred, the victim was in the act of unloading his cargoes, which he had every right to do, from petitioner’s vessel. As earlier stated, a carrier is duty bound not only to bring its passengers safely to their destination but also to afford them a reasonable time to claim their baggage.

Consequently, under the foregoing circumstances, the victim Anacleto Viana is still deemed a passenger of said carrier at the time of his tragic death.

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