Civil Law

Consunji v. CA G.R. No. 137873 April 20, 2001 Waiver of Rights

FACTS:

At around 1:30 p.m., November 2, 1990, Jose Juego, a construction worker of D. M. Consunji, Inc., fell 14 floors from the Renaissance Tower, Pasig City to his death.

The investigation revealed that the platform he was then on board and performing work, fell. And the falling of the platform was due to the removal or getting loose of the pin which was merely inserted to the connecting points of the chain block and platform but without a safety lock.

Maria Juego, Jose’s widow, filed a complaint for damages against the deceased’s employer, D.M. Consunji, Inc.

Consunji raised, among other defenses, the widow’s prior availment of the benefits from the State Insurance Fund.

The RTC rendered judgement in favor of Maria, thus ordering Consunji to pay damages.

On appeal by Consunji, the CA affirmed the decision of the RTC in toto.

Petitioner argues that private respondent had previously availed of the death benefits provided under the Labor Code and is, therefore, precluded from claiming from the deceased’s employer damages under the Civil Code.

ISSUE:

Whether private respondent effectively waived her right to recover compensation for the death of her husband.

RULING:

Waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right.

[It] is an act of understanding that presupposes that a party has knowledge of its rights, but chooses not to assert them. It must be generally shown by the party claiming a waiver that the person against whom the waiver is asserted had at the time knowledge, actual or constructive, of the existence of the party’s rights or of all material facts upon which they depended. Where one lacks knowledge of a right, there is no basis upon which waiver of it can rest. Ignorance of a material fact negates waiver, and waiver cannot be established by a consent given under a mistake or misapprehension of fact.

A person makes a knowing and intelligent waiver when that person knows that a right exists and has adequate knowledge upon which to make an intelligent decision.

Waiver requires a knowledge of the facts basic to the exercise of the right waived, with an awareness of its consequences. That a waiver is made knowingly and intelligently must be illustrated on the record or by the evidence.

That lack of knowledge of a fact that nullifies the election of a remedy is the basis for the exception in Floresca.

Waiver is a defense, and it was not incumbent upon private respondent, as plaintiff, to allege in her complaint that she had availed of benefits from the ECC. It is, thus, erroneous for petitioner to burden private respondent with raising waiver as an issue. 

It bears stressing that what negates waiver is lack of knowledge or a mistake of fact. In this case, the “fact” that served as a basis for nullifying the waiver is the negligence of petitioner’s employees, of which private respondent purportedly learned only after the prosecutor issued a resolution stating that there may be civil liability. 

There is also no showing that private respondent knew of the remedies available to her when the claim before the ECC was filed. On the contrary, private respondent testified that she was not aware of her rights.

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