409 Phil. 275
x x x. [The] [v]ictim was rushed to [the] Rizal Medical Center in Pasig, Metro Manila where he was pronounced dead on arrival (DOA) by the attending physician, Dr. Errol de Yzo[,] at around 2:15 p.m. of the same date.
Investigation disclosed that at the given time, date and place, while victim Jose A. Juego together with Jessie Jaluag and Delso Destajo [were] performing their work as carpenter[s] at the elevator core of the 14th floor of the Tower D, Renaissance Tower Building on board a [p]latform made of channel beam (steel) measuring 4.8 meters by 2 meters wide with pinulid plywood flooring and cable wires attached to its four corners and hooked at the 5 ton chain block, when suddenly, the bolt or pin which was merely inserted to connect the chain block with the [p]latform, got loose xxx causing the whole [p]latform assembly and the victim to fall down to the basement of the elevator core, Tower D of the building under construction thereby crushing the victim to death, save his two (2) companions who luckily jumped out for safety.
It is thus manifest that Jose A. Juego was crushed to death when the [p]latform he was then on board and performing work, fell. And the falling of the [p]latform was due to the removal or getting loose of the pin which was merely inserted to the connecting points of the chain block and [p]latform but without a safety lock.
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered ordering defendant to pay plaintiff, as follows:
1. P50,000.00 for the death of Jose A. Juego.
2. P10,000.00 as actual and compensatory damages.
3. P464,000.00 for the loss of Jose A. Juego's earning capacity.
4. P100,000.00 as moral damages.
5. P20,000.00 as attorney's fees, plus the costs of suit.
• THE APPELLATE COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE POLICE REPORT WAS ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE OF THE ALLEGED NEGLIGENCE OF PETITIONER.
• THE APPELLATE COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE DOCTRINE OF RES IPSA LOQUITOR [sic] IS APPLICABLE TO PROVE NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF PETITIONER.
• THE APPELLATE COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT PETITIONER IS PRESUMED NEGLIGENT UNDER ARTICLE 2180 OF THE CIVIL CODE, AND
• THE APPELLATE COURT ERRED IN HOLDING THAT RESPONDENT IS NOT PRECLUDED FROM RECOVERING DAMAGES UNDER THE CIVIL CODE.
Entries in official records made in the performance of his duty made in the performance of his duty by a public officer of the Philippines, or by a person in the performance of a duty specially enjoined by law are prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated.
x x x. Since Major Enriquez himself took the witness stand and was available for cross-examination, the portions of the report which were of his personal knowledge or which consisted of his perceptions and conclusions were not hearsay. The rest of the report, such as the summary of the statements of the parties based on their sworn statements (which were annexed to the Report) as well as the latter, having been included in the first purpose of the offer [as part of the testimony of Major Enriquez], may then be considered as independently relevant statements which were gathered in the course of the investigation and may thus be admitted as such, but not necessarily to prove the truth thereof. It has been said that:"Where regardless of the truth or falsity of a statement, the fact that it has been made is relevant, the hearsay rule does not apply, but the statement may be shown. Evidence as to the making of such statement is not secondary but primary, for the statement itself may constitute a fact in issue, or be circumstantially relevant as to the existence of such a fact."
When Major Enriquez took the witness stand, testified for petitioners on his Report and made himself available for cross-examination by the adverse party, the Report, insofar as it proved that certain utterances were made (but not their truth), was effectively removed from the ambit of the aforementioned Section 44 of Rule 130. Properly understood, this section does away with the testimony in open court of the officer who made the official record, considers the matter as an exception to the hearsay rule and makes the entries in said official record admissible in evidence as prima facie evidence of the facts therein stated. The underlying reasons for this exceptionary rule are necessity and trustworthiness, as explained in Antillon v. Barcelon.The litigation is unlimited in which testimony by officials is daily needed; the occasions in which the officials would be summoned from his ordinary duties to declare as a witness are numberless. The public officers are few in whose daily work something is not done in which testimony is not needed from official sources. Were there no exception for official statements, hosts of officials would be found devoting the greater part of their time to attending as witnesses in court or delivering deposition before an officer. The work of administration of government and the interest of the public having business with officials would alike suffer in consequence. For these reasons, and for many others, a certain verity is accorded such documents, which is not extended to private documents. (3 Wigmore on Evidence, Sec. 1631).The law reposes a particular confidence in public officers that it presumes they will discharge their several trusts with accuracy and fidelity; and, therefore, whatever acts they do in discharge of their duty may be given in evidence and shall be taken to be true under such a degree of caution as to the nature and circumstances of each case may appear to require.
It would have been an entirely different matter if Major Enriquez was not presented to testify on his report. In that case the applicability of Section 44 of Rule 143 would have been ripe for determination, and this Court would have agreed with the Court of Appeals that said report was inadmissible since the aforementioned third requisite was not satisfied. The statements given by the sources of information of Major Enriquez failed to qualify as "official information," there being no showing that, at the very least, they were under a duty to give the statements for record.
While negligence is not ordinarily inferred or presumed, and while the mere happening of an accident or injury will not generally give rise to an inference or presumption that it was due to negligence on defendant's part, under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, which means, literally, the thing or transaction speaks for itself, or in one jurisdiction, that the thing or instrumentality speaks for itself, the facts or circumstances accompanying an injury may be such as to raise a presumption, or at least permit an inference of negligence on the part of the defendant, or some other person who is charged with negligence.
x x x where it is shown that the thing or instrumentality which caused the injury complained of was under the control or management of the defendant, and that the occurrence resulting in the injury was such as in the ordinary course of things would not happen if those who had its control or management used proper care, there is sufficient evidence, or, as sometimes stated, reasonable evidence, in the absence of explanation by the defendant, that the injury arose from or was caused by the defendant's want of care.
The res ipsa loquitur doctrine is based in part upon the theory that the defendant in charge of the instrumentality which causes the injury either knows the cause of the accident or has the best opportunity of ascertaining it and that the plaintiff has no such knowledge, and therefore is compelled to allege negligence in general terms and to rely upon the proof of the happening of the accident in order to establish negligence. The inference which the doctrine permits is grounded upon the fact that the chief evidence of the true cause, whether culpable or innocent, is practically accessible to the defendant but inaccessible to the injured person.
It has been said that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur furnishes a bridge by which a plaintiff, without knowledge of the cause, reaches over to defendant who knows or should know the cause, for any explanation of care exercised by the defendant in respect of the matter of which the plaintiff complains. The res ipsa loquitur doctrine, another court has said, is a rule of necessity, in that it proceeds on the theory that under the peculiar circumstances in which the doctrine is applicable, it is within the power of the defendant to show that there was no negligence on his part, and direct proof of defendant's negligence is beyond plaintiff's power. Accordingly, some courts add to the three prerequisites for the application of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine the further requirement that for the res ipsa loquitur doctrine to apply, it must appear that the injured party had no knowledge or means of knowledge as to the cause of the accident, or that the party to be charged with negligence has superior knowledge or opportunity for explanation of the accident.
There is no dispute that appellee's husband fell down from the 14th floor of a building to the basement while he was working with appellant's construction project, resulting to his death. The construction site is within the exclusive control and management of appellant. It has a safety engineer, a project superintendent, a carpenter leadman and others who are in complete control of the situation therein. The circumstances of any accident that would occur therein are peculiarly within the knowledge of the appellant or its employees. On the other hand, the appellee is not in a position to know what caused the accident. Res ipsa loquitur is a rule of necessity and it applies where evidence is absent or not readily available, provided the following requisites are present: (1) the accident was of a kind which does not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent; (2) the instrumentality or agency which caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the person charged with negligence; and (3) the injury suffered must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the person injured. x x x.
No worker is going to fall from the 14th floor of a building to the basement while performing work in a construction site unless someone is negligent[;] thus, the first requisite for the application of the rule of res ipsa loquitur is present. As explained earlier, the construction site with all its paraphernalia and human resources that likely caused the injury is under the exclusive control and management of appellant[;] thus[,] the second requisite is also present. No contributory negligence was attributed to the appellee's deceased husband[;] thus[,] the last requisite is also present. All the requisites for the application of the rule of res ipsa loquitur are present, thus a reasonable presumption or inference of appellant's negligence arises. x x x.
Article 173 of the Labor Code states:
ART. 173. Extent of liability. - Unless otherwise provided, the liability of the State Insurance Fund under this Title shall be exclusive and in place of all other liabilities of the employer to the employee, his dependents or anyone otherwise entitled to receive damages on behalf of the employee or his dependents. The payment of compensation under this Title shall not bar the recovery of benefits as provided for in Section 699 of the Revised Administrative Code, Republic Act Numbered Eleven hundred sixty-one, as amended, Republic Act Numbered Six hundred ten, as amended, Republic Act Numbered Forty-eight hundred sixty-four as amended, and other laws whose benefits are administered by the System or by other agencies of the government.
SEC. 5. Exclusive right to compensation. - The rights and remedies granted by this Act to an employee by reason of a personal injury entitling him to compensation shall exclude all other rights and remedies accruing to the employee, his personal representatives, dependents or nearest of kin against the employer under the Civil Code and other laws because of said injury x x x.
WE now come to the query as to whether or not the injured employee or his heirs in case of death have a right of selection or choice of action between availing themselves of the worker's right under the Workmen's Compensation Act and suing in the regular courts under the Civil Code for higher damages (actual, moral and exemplary) from the employers by virtue of the negligence or fault of the employers or whether they may avail themselves cumulatively of both actions, i.e., collect the limited compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act and sue in addition for damages in the regular courts.
In disposing of a similar issue, this Court in Pacaña vs. Cebu Autobus Company, 32 SCRA 442, ruled that an injured worker has a choice of either to recover from the employer the fixed amounts set by the Workmen's Compensation Act or to prosecute an ordinary civil action against the tortfeasor for higher damages but he cannot pursue both courses of action simultaneously. [Underscoring supplied.]
With regard to the other petitioners, it was alleged by Philex in its motion to dismiss dated May 14, 1968 before the court a quo, that the heirs of the deceased employees, namely Emerito Obra, Larry Villar, Jr., Aurelio Lanuza, Lorenzo Isla and Saturnino submitted notices and claims for compensation to the Regional Office No.1 of the then Department of Labor and all of them have been paid in full as of August 25, 1967, except Saturnino Martinez whose heirs decided that they be paid in installments x x x. Such allegation was admitted by herein petitioners in their opposition to the motion to dismiss dated May 27, 1968 x x x in the lower court, but they set up the defense that the claims were filed under the Workmen's Compensation Act before they learned of the official report of the committee created to investigate the accident which established the criminal negligence and violation of law by Philex, and which report was forwarded by the Director of Mines to then Executive Secretary Rafael Salas in a letter dated October 19, 1967 only x x x.
WE hold that although the other petitioners had received the benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Act, such may not preclude them from bringing an action before the regular court because they became cognizant of the fact that Philex has been remiss in its contractual obligations with the deceased miners only after receiving compensation under the Act. Had petitioners been aware of said violation of government rules and regulations by Philex, and of its negligence, they would not have sought redress under the Workmen's Compensation Commission which awarded a lesser amount for compensation. The choice of the first remedy was based on ignorance or a mistake of fact, which nullifies the choice as it was not an intelligent choice. The case should therefore be remanded to the lower court for further proceedings. However, should the petitioners be successful in their bid before the lower court, the payments made under the Workmen's Compensation Act should be deducted from the damages that may be decreed in their favor. [Underscoring supplied.]
In the Robles case, it was held that claims for damages sustained by workers in the course of their employment could be filed only under the Workmen's Compensation Law, to the exclusion of all further claims under other laws. In Floresca, this doctrine was abrogated in favor of the new rule that the claimants may invoke either the Workmen's Compensation Act or the provisions of the Civil Code, subject to the consequence that the choice of one remedy will exclude the other and that the acceptance of compensation under the remedy chosen will preclude a claim for additional benefits under the other remedy. The exception is where a claimant who has already been paid under the Workmen's Compensation Act may still sue for damages under the Civil Code on the basis of supervening facts or developments occurring after he opted for the first remedy. (Underscoring supplied.)
x x x We do not agree that appellee has knowledge of the alleged negligence of appellant as early as November 25, 1990, the date of the police investigator's report. The appellee merely executed her sworn statement before the police investigator concerning her personal circumstances, her relation to the victim, and her knowledge of the accident. She did not file the complaint for "Simple Negligence Resulting to Homicide" against appellant's employees. It was the investigator who recommended the filing of said case and his supervisor referred the same to the prosecutor's office. This is a standard operating procedure for police investigators which appellee may not have even known. This may explain why no complainant is mentioned in the preliminary statement of the public prosecutor in her memorandum dated February 6, 1991, to wit: "Respondent Ferdinand Fabro x x x are being charged by complaint of "Simple Negligence Resulting to Homicide." It is also possible that the appellee did not have a chance to appear before the public prosecutor as can be inferred from the following statement in said memorandum: "Respondents who were notified pursuant to Law waived their rights to present controverting evidence," thus there was no reason for the public prosecutor to summon the appellee. Hence, notice of appellant's negligence cannot be imputed on appellee before she applied for death benefits under ECC or before she received the first payment therefrom. Her using the police investigation report to support her complaint filed on May 9, 1991 may just be an afterthought after receiving a copy of the February 6, 1991 Memorandum of the Prosecutor's Office dismissing the criminal complaint for insufficiency of evidence, stating therein that: "The death of the victim is not attributable to any negligence on the part of the respondents. If at all and as shown by the records this case is civil in nature." (Underscoring supplied.) Considering the foregoing, We are more inclined to believe appellee's allegation that she learned about appellant's negligence only after she applied for and received the benefits under ECC. This is a mistake of fact that will make this case fall under the exception held in the Floresca ruling.
x x x. Appellee [Maria Juego] testified that she has reached only elementary school for her educational attainment; that she did not know what damages could be recovered from the death of her husband; and that she did not know that she may also recover more from the Civil Code than from the ECC. x x x.
[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.