Can A Resident Filipino Citizen File A Personal Injury?


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In the recently-decided case of Lhuillier v. British Airways (G. R. No. 171092, 15 March 2010), the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in the negative. A digest of the case is as follows:

Facts

On April 28, 2005, petitioner Edna DiagoLhuillier filed a Complaint for damages against respondent British Airways before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City. She alleged that on February 28, 2005, she took respondents flight 548 from London, United Kingdom to Rome, Italy.Once on board, she allegedly requested Julian Halliday (Halliday), one of the respondents flight attendants, to assist her in placing her hand-carried luggage in the overhead bin.However, Halliday allegedly refused to help and assist her, and even sarcastically remarked that “If I were to help all 300 passengers in this flight, I would have a broken back!”

Petitioner further alleged that when the plane was about to land in Rome, Italy, another flight attendant, Nickolas Kerrigan (Kerrigan), singled her out from among all the passengers in the business class section to lecture on plane safety.Allegedly, Kerrigan made her appear to the other passengers to be ignorant, uneducated, stupid, and in need of lecturing on the safety rules and regulations of the plane.Affronted, petitioner assured Kerrigan that she knew the planes safety regulations being a frequent traveler.Thereupon, Kerrigan allegedly thrust his face a mere few centimeters away from that of the petitioner and menacingly told her that “We don’t like your attitude.”

Upon arrival in Rome, petitioner complained to respondent’s ground manager and demanded an apology.However, the latter declared that the flight stewards were only doing their job.

Thus, petitioner filed the complaint for damages, praying that respondent be ordered to pay P5 million as moral damages, P2 million as nominal damages, P1 million as exemplary damages, P300,000.00 as attorneys fees, P200,000.00 as litigation expenses, and cost of the suit.

On May 16, 2005, summons, together with a copy of the complaint, was served on the respondent through VioletaEchevarria, General Manager of Euro-Philippine Airline Services, Inc.

On May 30, 2005, respondent, by way of special appearance through counsel, filed a Motion to Dismiss on grounds of lack of jurisdiction over the case and over the person of the respondent.Respondent alleged that only the courts of London, United Kingdom or Rome, Italy, have jurisdiction over the complaint for damages pursuant to the Warsaw Convention,Article 28(1) of which provides:

An action for damages must be brought at the option of the plaintiff, either before the court of domicile of the carrier or his principal place of business, or where he has a place of business through which the contract has been made, or before the court of the place of destination.

Thus, since a) respondent is domiciled in London; b) respondent’s principal place of business is in London; c) petitioner bought her ticket in Italy (through Jeepney Travel S.A.S, in Rome); and d) Rome, Italy is petitioners place of destination, then it follows that the complaint should only be filed in the proper courts of London, United Kingdom or Rome, Italy.

Issue

Whether X XX Philippine Courts Have Jurisdiction Over A Tortious Conduct Committed Against A Filipino Citizen And Resident By Airline Personnel Of A Foreign Carrier Travelling Beyond The Territorial Limit Of Any Foreign Country; And Thus Is Outside The Ambit Of The Warsaw Convention.

Ruling

The petition is without merit.

The Warsaw Convention has the force and effect of law in this country.

It is settled that the Warsaw Convention has the force and effect of law in this country.In Santos III v. Northwest Orient Airlines,we held that:

The Republic of the Philippines is a party to the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Transportation by Air, otherwise known as the Warsaw Convention.It took effect on February 13, 1933.The Convention was concurred in by the Senate, through its Resolution No. 19, on May 16, 1950.The Philippine instrument of accession was signed by President ElpidioQuirino on October 13, 1950, and was deposited with the Polish government on November 9, 1950.The Convention became applicable to the Philippines on February 9, 1951.On September 23, 1955, President Ramon Magsaysay issued Proclamation No. 201, declaring our formal adherence thereto, to the end that the same and every article and clause thereof may be observed and fulfilled in good faith by the Republic of the Philippines and the citizens thereof.

The Convention is thus a treaty commitment voluntarily assumed by the Philippine government and, as such, has the force and effect of law in this country.

The Warsaw Convention applies because the air travel, where the alleged tortious conduct occurred, was between the United Kingdom and Italy, which are both signatories to the Warsaw Convention.

Article 1 of the Warsaw Convention provides:

1.   This Convention applies to all international carriage of persons, luggage or goods performed by aircraft for reward. It applies equally to gratuitous carriage by aircraft performed by an air transport undertaking.

2.   For the purposes of this Convention the expression “international carriage” means any carriage in which, according to the contract made by the parties, the place of departure and the place of destination, whether or not there be a break in the carriage or a transshipment, are situated either within the territories of two High Contracting Parties, or within the territory of a single High Contracting Party, if there is an agreed stopping place within a territory subject to the sovereignty, suzerainty, mandate or authority of another Power, even though that Power is not a party to this Convention. A carriage without such an agreed stopping place between territories subject to the sovereignty, suzerainty, mandate or authority of the same High Contracting Party is not deemed to be international for the purposes of this Convention. (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, when the place of departure and the place of destination in a contract of carriage are situated within the territories of two High Contracting Parties, said carriage is deemed an international carriage.The High Contracting Parties referred to herein were the signatories to the Warsaw Convention and those which subsequently adhered to it.

In the case at bench, petitioner’s place of departure was London, United Kingdom while her place of destination was Rome, Italy. Both the United Kingdom and Italy signed and ratified the Warsaw Convention.As such, the transport of the petitioner is deemed to be an international carriage within the contemplation of the Warsaw Convention.

Since the Warsaw Convention applies in the instant case, then the jurisdiction over the subject matter of the action is governed by the provisions of the Warsaw Convention.

Under Article 28(1) of the Warsaw Convention, the plaintiff may bring the action for damages before

1. the court where the carrier is domiciled;

2.the court where the carrier has its principal place of business;

3.the court where the carrier has an establishment by which the contract has been made; or

4.the court of the place of destination.

In this case, it is not disputed that respondent is a British corporation domiciled in London, United Kingdom with London as its principal place of business.Hence, under the first and second jurisdictional rules, the petitioner may bring her case before the courts of London in the United Kingdom.In the passenger ticket and baggage check presented by both the petitioner and respondent, it appears that the ticket was issued in Rome, Italy.Consequently, under the third jurisdictional rule, the petitioner has the option to bring her case before the courts of Rome in Italy.Finally, both the petitioner and respondent aver that the place of destination is Rome, Italy, which is properly designated given the routing presented in the said passenger ticket and baggage check.Accordingly, petitioner may bring her action before the courts of Rome, Italy.We thus find that the RTC of Makati correctly ruled that it does not have jurisdiction over the case filed by the petitioner.

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