Mirasol v. The Robert Dollar Co. (G.R. No. L-29721)

Facts:

Plaintiff Mirasol alleges that he is the the owner and consignee of two cases of books, shipped in good order and condition at New York, U.S.A., on board the defendant’s steamship President Garfield, for transport and delivery to him in the City of Manila, all freight charges paid. The two cases arrived in bad order and damaged condition, resulting in the total loss of one case and a partial loss of the other. He filed claims but defendant refused and neglected to pay, giving as its reason that the damage in question “was caused by sea water.” The lower court rendered judgment for the plaintiff from which both parties appealed.

Issue:

Whether or not defendant Dollar may be held liable.

Ruling: YES.

The defendant having received the two boxes in good condition, its legal duty was to deliver them to the plaintiff in the same condition in which it received them. From the time of their delivery to the defendant in New York until they are delivered to the plaintiff in Manila, the boxes were under the control and supervision of the defendant and beyond the control of the plaintiff. The defendant having admitted that the boxes were damaged while in transit and in its possession, the burden of proof then shifted, and it devolved upon the defendant to both allege and prove that the damage was caused by reason of some fact which exempted it from liability. As to how the boxes were damaged, when or where, was a matter peculiarly and exclusively within the knowledge of the defendant and in the very nature of things could not be in the knowledge of the plaintiff. To require the plaintiff to prove as to when and how the damage was caused would force him to call and rely upon the employees of the defendant’s ship, which in legal effect would be to say that he could not recover any damage for any reason. That is not the law.

Shippers who are forced to ship goods on an ocean liner or any other ship have some legal rights, and when goods are delivered on board ship in good order and condition, and the shipowner delivers them to the shipper in bad order and condition, it then devolves upon the shipowner to both allege and prove that the goods were damaged by the reason of some fact which legally exempts him from liability; otherwise, the shipper would be left without any redress, no matter what may have caused the damage.

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