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Court orders trial resumption against ABS-CBN for 2002 road accident

The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Quezon City regional trial court (RTC) to proceed with the trial on the civil case filed against television network ABS-CBN Corporation on its liability for the death of a mother and her six-year-old daughter in 2002.

In a decision written by Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba, the CA denied ABS-CBN’s petition to stop the Quezon City RTC from proceeding with the complaint for recovery and damages filed by Manolito Roxas.

Associate Justices Amelita Tolentino and Ricardo Rosario concurred with the decision.

In his complaint, Roxas asked the RTC to order ABS-CBN to pay him P17.34 million in damages for the death of his wife, Estela, and daughter, Pauline.

He said that on March 11, 2002, Antonio Magat was driving a Nissan Power van registered in the name of the network. While traversing along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, the vehicle slammed into his family, including himself and his two-year-old daughter Olline.

According to Roxas, they were brought to the New Era General Hospital but due to the injuries sustained, Estela and Pauline were declared dead on arrival.

He said ABS-CBN repeatedly ignored his demands for indemnification for the deaths of his wife and daughter, and for the injuries he and his surviving daughter sustained.

According to ABS-CBN, Roxas has no basis to seek damages from the television network because Magat’s employer was the Human Resources Assistance Network, Inc. (HRANI) with which the network has a contract for services since 1993.

It said that Magat was under the full control and supervision of HRANI at the time of the accident and that it had no participation in the selection, supervision or training of Magat as employee or driver.

In 2010, the RTC denied the defenses put up ABS-CBN which elevated the issue before the CA and pleaded for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO).

In denying the plea for TRO and directing the RTC to proceed with the civil case, the CA said the ABS-CBN’s claim that HRANI should be held primarily liable for damages considering that it is not the employer of Magat is irrelevant.

“The fact that petitioner (ABS-CBN) is the registered owner of the vehicle being driven by Magat during the accident is sufficient to hold petitioner liable under the Article 2180 (in relation to Article 2176) of the Civil Code,” the CA said.

Citing a Supreme Court decision, the CA said: “The main aim of motor vehicle registration is to identify the owner so that if any accident happens, or that any damage or injury is caused by the vehicle on the public highways, responsibility therefor can be fixed in a definite individual, the registered owner.”

“The assailed orders dated June 25 2010 and October 4, 2010 are hereby affirmed. The Court a quo (RTC) is hereby directed to hear the case with reasonable dispatch until its termination,” the CA ruled.