SPOUSES PACIS VS. MORALES
G.R. No. 169467
February 25, 2010
FACTS: petitioners filed with the trial court a civil case for damages against respondent Morales.
Petitioners are the parents of Alfred Pacis, a 17-year old student who died in a shooting incident inside the Top Gun Firearms and Ammunitions Store in Baguio City. Morales is the owner of the gun store.
On the fateful day, Alfred was in the gun store, with Matibag and Herbolario as sales agents and caretakers of the store while owner Morales was in Manila. The gun which killed Alfred is a gun owned by a store customer which was left with Morales for repairs, which he placed inside a drawer. Since Morales would be going to Manila, he left the keys to the store with the caretakers. It appears that the caretakers took the gun from the drawer and placed it on top of a table. Attracted by the sight of the gun, the young Alfred got hold of the same. Matibag asked Alfred to return the gun. The latter followed and handed the gun to Matibag. It went off, the bullet hitting the young Alfred in the head.
A criminal case for homicide was filed against Matibag. Matibag, however, was acquitted of the charge against him because of the exempting circumstance of “accident” under Art. 12, par. 4 of the RPC.
By agreement of the parties, the evidence adduced in the criminal case for homicide against Matibag was reproduced and adopted by them as part of their evidence in the instant case.
The trial court rendered its decision in favor of petitioners, ordering the defendant to pay plaintiffs indemnity for the death of Alfred, actual damages for the hospitalization and burial, expenses incurred by the plaintiffs, compensatory damages, MD and AF.
Respondent appealed to the CA, which reversed the trial court’s Decision and absolved respondent from civil liability under Article 2180 of the Civil Code. MR denied, hence this petition.
ISSUE: Was Morales negligent?
HELD: Petition granted. The CA decision is set aside and the trial court’s Decision reinstated.
This case for damages arose out of the accidental shooting of petitioners’ son. Under Article 1161 of the Civil Code, petitioners may enforce their claim for damages based on the civil liability arising from the crime under Article 100 of the RPC or they may opt to file an independent civil action for damages under the Civil Code. In this case, instead of enforcing their claim for damages in the homicide case filed against Matibag, petitioners opted to file an independent civil action for damages against respondent whom they alleged was Matibag’s employer. Petitioners based their claim for damages under Articles 2176 and 2180 of the Civil Code.
Unlike the subsidiary liability of the employer under Article 103 of the RPC, the liability of the employer, or any person for that matter, under Article 2176 of the Civil Code is primary and direct, based on a person’s own negligence. Article 2176 states:
Art. 2176. 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 and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter.
This case involves the accidental discharge of a firearm inside a gun store. Under PNP Circular No. 9, entitled the “Policy on Firearms and Ammunition Dealership/Repair,” a person who is in the business of purchasing and selling of firearms and ammunition must maintain basic security and safety requirements of a gun dealer, otherwise his License to Operate Dealership will be suspended or canceled.
Indeed, a higher degree of care is required of someone who has in his possession or under his control an instrumentality extremely dangerous in character, such as dangerous weapons or substances. Such person in possession or control of dangerous instrumentalities has the duty to take exceptional precautions to prevent any injury being done thereby. Unlike the ordinary affairs of life or business which involve little or no risk, a business dealing with dangerous weapons requires the exercise of a higher degree of care.
As a gun store owner, respondent is presumed to be knowledgeable about firearms safety and should have known never to keep a loaded weapon in his store to avoid unreasonable risk of harm or injury to others. Respondent has the duty to ensure that all the guns in his store are not loaded. Firearms should be stored unloaded and separate from ammunition when the firearms are not needed for ready-access defensive use. With more reason, guns accepted by the store for repair should not be loaded precisely because they are defective and may cause an accidental discharge such as what happened in this case. Respondent was clearly negligent when he accepted the gun for repair and placed it inside the drawer without ensuring first that it was not loaded. In the first place, the defective gun should have been stored in a vault. Before accepting the defective gun for repair, respondent should have made sure that it was not loaded to prevent any untoward accident. Indeed, respondent should never accept a firearm from another person, until the cylinder or action is open and he has personally checked that the weapon is completely unloaded. For failing to insure that the gun was not loaded, respondent himself was negligent. Furthermore, it was not shown in this case whether respondent had a License to Repair which authorizes him to repair defective firearms to restore its original composition or enhance or upgrade firearms.
Clearly, respondent did not exercise the degree of care and diligence required of a good father of a family, much less the degree of care required of someone dealing with dangerous weapons, as would exempt him from liability in this case.