Civil Law

Sps. Latonio v. McGEORGE FOOD INDUSTRIES Inc., G.R. No. 206184 December 6, 2017 Negligence, Proximate Cause

FACTS:

Petitioners, spouses Ed and Mary Ann Latonio, with their eight-month-old child Ed Christian, went to a birthday party at the McDonald’s, Ayala Center, Cebu.

During the party and as part of the birthday package, McDonald’s presented two mascots – “Birdie” and “Grimace” – to entertain and dance for the guests. Respondent Lomibao was the person inside the “Birdie” mascot suit.

Intending to have her child’s photo taken with the mascots, Mary Ann placed Ed Christian on a chair in front of the mascot “Birdie.” The mascot positioned itself behind the child and extended its “wings” to give a good pose for the camera.

As photos were about to be taken, Mary Ann released her hold of Ed Christian. Seconds later, the child fell head first from the chair onto the floor.

The employees of respondent McDonald’s Cebu Golden Food assisted petitioners in giving first aid treatment to Ed Christian. Petitioners, nevertheless, remained and continued with the party and left only after the party was over.

At about 9:30 in the evening of the same day, Mary Ann called up respondent McDonald’s Cebu to inform them that their doctor advised them to get an x-ray examination on Ed Christian. 

McDonald’s reimbursed Mary Ann for the expenses incurred relative to the x-ray examination, and offered to pay the expenses for the CT scan of Ed Christian.

When a staff of McDonald’s Cebu visited the Latonios in their residence to follow up the results of the CT scan test, the brother of Mary Ann allegedly said that they would file a case. Thus, Cebu Golden Food reported the incident to their licensor, McGeorge Food Industries, Inc.

Later, McGeorge received a Letter from the lawyer of the Latonios regarding the incident. 

McGeorge sent its Field Service Director and its lawyer, to meet with the Latonios and their lawyers to assure them that McDonald’s was ready to assist in whatever medical attention would be required of Ed Christian.

McGeorge consulted with two neurosurgeons at the St. Luke’s Medical Center and the Makati Medical Center to study the CT scan results and determine the extent of the injury sustained by the baby.

The Latonios initially agreed to give McGeorge copies of the x-ray and CT scan results. However, they later decided against lending them the x-ray and CT scan results and other related medical records.

Instead, the Latonios sent a Letter to McGeorge demanding for compensation in the amount of Fifteen Million Pesos.

As their demand remained unheeded, the Latonios caused the publication of the accident in the local newspaper. Simultaneously, the Latonios also instituted a complaint for damages and attorney’s fees against McGeorge.

The RTC rendered judgment in favor of the petitioners. Respondents were ordered to pay the Latonios moral and exemplary damages, plus attorney’s fees.

On appeal, the CA reversed and set aside the RTC decision.

Hence, this petition for review.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the proximate cause of Ed Christian’s fall is the negligence of respondent’s employee.

RULING:

In the instant case, there is no dispute that petitioners suffered damages because of Ed Christian’s fall. However, as to the issues on negligence and proximate cause, the CA and the trial court gave contradicting findings.

As the action is predicated on negligence, the relevant law is Article 2176 of the Civil Code, which states that-

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 was no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this chapter.

The trial court held that the proximate cause of Ed Christian’s fall and the resulting injury was Lomibao’s act of holding the baby during the party which was purportedly prohibited under the rules and policy of the establishment.

We disagree.

We agree with the appellate court that despite Mary Ann’s insistence that she made sure that her baby was safe and secured before she released her grasp on Ed Christian, her own testimony revealed that she had, in fact, acted negligently and carelessly.

More telling is the ratiocination of the Court of Appeals, which we quote with approval:

Indeed, it is irresponsible for a mother to entrust the safety, even momentarily, of her eight-month-old child to a mascot, not to mention a bird mascot in thick leather suit that had no arms to hold the child and whose diminished ability to see, hear, feel, and move freely was readily apparent. Moreover, by merely tapping the mascot and saying “papicture ta”, Mary Ann Latonio cannot be said to have “told, informed and instructed the mascot that she was letting the mascot hold the baby momentarily.” Releasing her grasp of the baby without waiting for any indication that the mascot heard and understood her is just plain negligence on the part of Mary Ann.

To Our mind, what is more in accord with human experience and dictates of reason is that a diligent mother would naturally ensure first and foremost the safety of her child before releasing her hold on him. Such is not the case here. Mary Ann Latonio, in placing Ed Christian on a chair and expecting a bird mascot to ensure the child’s safety, utterly failed to observe the degree of diligence expected of her as a mother of an eight-month- old baby.

Clearly, based on the foregoing, Mary Ann’s negligence was the proximate cause of Ed Christian’s fall which caused him injury.

Proximate cause is defined as –

that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred. And more comprehensively, the proximate legal cause is that acting first and producing the injury, either immediately or by setting other events in motion, all constituting a natural and continuous chain of events, each having a close causal connection with its immediate predecessor, the final event in the chain immediately effecting the injury as a natural and probable result of the cause which first acted, under such circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should, as an ordinary prudent and intelligent person, have reasonable ground to expect at the moment of his act or default that an injury to some person might probably result therefrom.

Here, it is beyond dispute that the cause of Ed Christian’s fall is traceable to the negligent act of Mary Ann of leaving him in the “hands” of Lomibao who was wearing the Birdie mascot suit.

Thus, all the aforementioned circumstances lead us to no other conclusion than that the proximate cause of the injury sustained by Ed Christian was due to Mary Ann’s own negligence.

All told, in the absence of negligence on the part of respondents Cebu Golden Foods and Lomibao, as well as their management and staff, they cannot be made liable to pay for the damages prayed for by the petitioners.

To warrant the recovery of damages, there must be both a right of action for a legal wrong inflicted by the defendant, and damage resulting to the plaintiff therefrom. 

Wrong without damage, or damage without wrong, does not constitute a cause of action, since damages are merely part of the remedy allowed for the injury caused by a breach or wrong.

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