Torts - Defenses

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ARTICLE 2179. When the plaintiff's own negligence was the immediate and proximate cause of his injury, he cannot recover damages. But if his negligence was only contributory, the immediate and proximate cause of the injury being the defendant's lack of due care, the plaintiff may recover damages, but the courts shall mitigate the damages to be awarded. (n)

REQUISITES FOR A QUASI-DELICT

1. There must be an act or omission;
2. There must be fault or negligence attendant in the same act or omission; 3. There must be damage caused to another person;
4. There must be a causal connection between the fault or negligence and the damage; and 5. There must have been no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties.

DEFENSES GENERALLY AVAILABLE IN TORTS CASES IN RELATION TO THE ELEMENTS OF A QUASI-DELICT:

1. NO NEGLIGENCE

This is a defense of denial that is a COMPLETE DEFENSE against any imputation of negligence. The defendant, in order to be absolved from liability must be able to prove that he exercised the proper degree of diligence agreed upon in the contract or required by the nature of the obligation and corresponds with the circumstances of the persons, of the time and of the place.

In essence, the defense is directed against the second requisite that “there must be fault or negligence attendant in the same act or omission”.

2. THERE IS NO DAMAGE CAUSED TO THE PLAINTIFF OR THE DAMAGE CAUSED IS IN THE NATURE OF DAMNUM ABSQUE INJURIA

“Damnum absque injuria” literally means “loss without wrong” or in Philippine jurisdiction, it means damage without legal injury.

It is defined as a loss or damage for which there is no legal remedy. By way of example, suppose that Ms. Lim is driving her car carefully in J.P. Laurel Avenue but a speeding truck hit and bumped her car. Because of the bumping, Ms. Lim lost control of her car and hit Mr. Jumalon. Can Mr. Jumalon recover damages from Ms. Lim? The answer is NO. While it is the car of Ms. Lim that hit Mr. Jumalon, Ms. Lim was not at fault and was not negligent.

The foregoing is a very simple example of “damnum absque injuria”. Let us see the application of the principle in other situations.

Note that in Tort Law, liability only arises if there is an invasion of a right that corresponds or coincides with a breach of duty.

One situation that comes to mind is the concept of justifying circumstances in the Revised Penal Code. Briefly, they appear in Article 11 as:

1. Self-defense;
2. Defense of relatives;
3. Defense of strangers;
4. State of necessity;
5. Fulfillment of a duty or exercise of a right or office; and 6. Obedience of lawful orders.

As a general rule, a person who commits an act which would otherwise be considered a crime is not liable for damages as the civil aspect of a crime if the justifying circumstances are present. The person’s act, however injurious to the victim or the victim’s family, is justified and he could not be deemed to have violated any right or breached any duty. However, by way of exception, if a person acts in a state of necessity, civil liability shall be apportioned among those who were benefited by the act. The actor is not liable for damages.

In Article 12, par. 4, any person who, while performing a lawful act with due care, causes an injury by mere accident without fault or intention of causing it is not civilly liable for damages also.

In all of the foregoing cases in Criminal Law, there is definitely some injury suffered by a person, there is no legal remedy available to seek reparation therefor. What is the justification? While there may have been a violation of a right on the part of the plaintiff, it does not concur with any breach of duty on the part of the defendant.

To summarize:...
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