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At about 1:30 a.m. on November 15, 1975, private respondent Leonardo Dionisio was on his way home from cocktails and dinner meeting with his boss. He was proceeding down General Lacuna Street when he saw a Ford dump truck parked askew, partly blocking the way of oncoming traffic, with no lights or early warning reflector devices. The truck was driven earlier by Armando Carbonel, a regular driver of the petitioner company. Dionisio tried to swerve his car to the left, but it was too late. He suffered some physical injuries and nervous breakdown. Dionision filed an action for damages against Carbonel and Phoenix Insurance. Petitioners countered the claim by imputing the accident to respondent’s own negligence in driving at high speed without curfew pass and headlights, and while intoxicated. The trial court and the Court of Appeals ruled in favor of private respondent.
Whether the collision was brought about by the way the truck was parked, or by respondent’s own negligence
We find that private respondent Dionisio was unable to prove possession of a valid curfew pass during the night of the accident and that the preponderance of evidence shows that he did not have such a pass during that night. It is the petitioners' contention that Dionisio purposely shut off his headlights even before he reached the intersection so as not to be detected by the police in the police precinct which he (being a resident in the area) knew was not far away from the intersection. We believe that the petitioners' theory is a more credible explanation than that offered by private respondent Dionisio, i.e., that he had his headlights on but that, at the crucial moment, these had in some mysterious if convenient way malfunctioned and gone off, although he succeeded in switching his lights on again at "bright" split seconds before contact with the dump truck. We do not believe that this evidence is sufficient to show that Dionisio was so heavily under the influence of liquor as to constitute his driving a motor vehicle per se an act of reckless imprudence. The conclusion we draw from the factual circumstances outlined above is that private respondent Dionisio was negligent the night of the accident. He was hurrying home that night and driving faster than he should have been. Worse, he extinguished his headlights at or near the intersection of General Lacuna and General Santos Streets and thus did not see the dump truck that was parked askew and sticking out onto the road lane.
Nonetheless, we agree with the Court of First Instance and the Intermediate Appellate Court that the legal and proximate cause of the accident and of Dionisio's injuries was the wrongful or negligent manner in which the dump truck was parked in other words, the negligence of petitioner Carbonel. The collision of Dionisio's car with the dump truck was a natural and foreseeable consequence of the truck driver's negligence.
The distinctions between "cause" and "condition" which the 'petitioners would have us adopt have already been "almost entirely discredited. If the defendant has created only a passive static condition which made the damage possible, the defendant is said not to be liable. But so far as the fact of causation is concerned, in the sense of necessary antecedents which have played an important part in producing the result it is quite impossible to distinguish between active forces and passive situations, particularly since, as is invariably the case, the latter are the result of other active forces which have gone before. Even the lapse of a considerable time during which the "condition" remains static will not necessarily affect liability. "Cause" and "condition" still find occasional mention in the decisions; but the distinction is now almost entirely discredited. So far as it has any validity at all, it must refer to the type of case where the forces set in operation by the defendant have come to rest in a position of apparent safety, and some new force intervenes. But even in such cases, it is not the distinction between "cause" and "condition" which is important but the nature of the risk and the character of the intervening cause.
We believe, secondly, that the truck driver's negligence far from being a "passive and static condition" was rather an indispensable and efficient cause. The improper parking of the dump truck created an unreasonable risk of injury for anyone driving down General Lacuna Street and for having so created this risk, the truck driver must be held responsible. In our view, Dionisio's negligence, although later in point of time than the truck driver's negligence and therefore closer to the accident, was not an efficient intervening or independent cause.
The defendant cannot be relieved from liability by the fact that the risk or a substantial and important part of the risk, to which the defendant has subjected the plaintiff has indeed come to pass. Foreseeable intervening forces are within the scope original risk, and hence of the defendant's negligence. The courts are quite generally agreed that intervening causes which fall fairly in this category will not supersede the defendant's responsibility. Thus, a defendant who blocks the sidewalk and forces the plaintiff to walk in a street where the plaintiff will be exposed to the risks of heavy traffic becomes liable when the plaintiff is run down by a car, even though the car is negligently driven; and one who parks an automobile on the highway without lights at night is not relieved of responsibility when another negligently drives into it. We hold that private respondent Dionisio's negligence was "only contributory," that the "immediate and proximate cause" of the injury remained the truck driver's "lack of due care" and that consequently respondent Dionisio may recover damages though such damages are subject to mitigation by the courts.
Petitioners also ask us to apply what they refer to as the "last clear chance" doctrine. The common law notion of last clear chance permitted courts to grant recovery to a plaintiff who had also been negligent provided that the defendant had the last clear chance to avoid the casualty and failed to do so. Accordingly, it is difficult to see what role, if any, the common law last clear chance doctrine has to play in a jurisdiction where the common law concept of contributory negligence as an absolute bar to recovery by the plaintiff, has itself been rejected, as it has been in Article 2179 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. Under Article 2179, the task of a court, in technical terms, is to determine whose negligence - the plaintiff's or the defendant's - was the legal or proximate cause of the injury. The relative location in the continuum of time of the plaintiff's and the defendant's negligent acts or omissions, is only one of the relevant factors that may be taken into account. Of more fundamental importance are the nature of the negligent act or omission of each party and the character and gravity of the risks created by such act or omission for the rest of the community. Our law on quasi-delicts seeks to reduce the risks and burdens of living in society and to allocate them among the members of society. To accept the petitioners' pro-position must tend to weaken the very bonds of society.
We believe that the demands of substantial justice are satisfied by allocating most of the damages on a 20-80 ratio. Thus, 20% of the damages awarded by the respondent appellate court, except the award of P10,000.00 as exemplary damages and P4,500.00 as attorney's fees and costs, shall be borne by private respondent Dionisio; only the balance of 80% needs to be paid by petitioners Carbonel and Phoenix who shall be solidarity liable therefor to the former. The award of exemplary damages and attorney's fees and costs shall be borne exclusively by the petitioners. Phoenix is of course entitled to reimbursement from Carbonel. We see no sufficient reason for disturbing the reduced award of damages made by the respondent appellate court.