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BELLOSILLO,J

.
Doctrine

Summary

Facts

Issues/Ratio

UNITED AIRLINES, petitioner, vs. WILLIE J. UY, respondent.


November 19, 1999
G.R. No. 127768.
Applicability of the Warsaw Convention: the Convention's provisions do not regulate or exclude
liability for other breaches of contract by the carrier or misconduct of its officers and employees, or
for some particular or exceptional type of damage. Neither may the Convention be invoked to justify
the disregard of some extraordinary sort of damage resulting to a passenger and preclude recovery
therefor beyond the limits set by said Convention. Likewise, we have held that the Convention does
not preclude the operation of the Civil Code and other pertinent laws. It does not regulate, much less
exempt, the carrier from liability for damages for violating the rights of its passengers under the
contract of carriage, especially if willful misconduct on the part of the carrier's employees is found or
established
Uy, a passenger of United airlines checked in his baggage but was overweight and an employee of
petitioner rebuked him saying that he should have known the maximum weight allowance per bag.
Upon arrival in manila, he discovered that one of his bags had been slashed and its contents
stolen. Petitioner moved to dismiss the complaint invoking the provisions of Article 29 of the Warsaw
Convention. Court held that in our jurisdiction, we have held that the Warsaw Convention can be
applied, or ignored, depending on the peculiar facts presented by each case.
Overweight luggage - Respondent Willie Uy is a passenger of petitioner United Airlines,
bound from San Francisco to Manila. While in San Francisco, it was found that one piece of
his luggage was over the maximum weight allowance of 70 kg. per bag.
Nampahiya - A United Airlines employee rebuked him and in a loud voice, in front of the
milling crowd, ordered him to repack his things accordingly. Wishing not to create a scene,
Willie did as asked. Unfortunately, his luggage was still overweight so the airline billed him
overweight charges. Willie offered to pay the charges with a Miscellaneous Charge Order
(MCO) or an airline pre-paid credit but the same employee, and an airline supervisor,
refused to honor it, contending that there were discrepancies in the figures. Thus, Willie was
forced to pay the charges with his American Express credit card.
Stolen contents - Upon arrival in Manila, Willie discovered that one of his bags had been
slashed and its contents, amounting to US$5,310.00, stolen.
Letters - he sent his first letter of demand to United Airlines. The airline did not refute
Willies allegations and mailed a check representing payment of his loss based on the
maximum liability of US$9.70 per pound. Willie, thinking the amount to be grossly
inadequate to compensate him for his losses as well as for the indignities he was subjected
to, sent two more letters to petitioner airline, demanding out-of-court settlement of
P1,000,000.00.
Action for damages - Willie filed a complaint for damages before the Philippine courts. He
had two causes of action: (1) the shabby and humiliating treatment he received from
petitioners employees at the San Francisco Airport which caused him extreme
embarrassment and social humiliation; and (2) the slashing of his luggage and the loss of
personal effects amounting to US$5,310.00.
Prescriptive period - For its part, United Airlines moved to dismiss the complaint on the
ground that it was filed out of time. Under Art. 29 of the Warsaw Convention, the right to
damages shall be extinguished if an action is not brought within 2 years. However, the
second paragraph of the said provision stated that the method of calculating the period of
limitation shall be determined by the law of the court to which the case is submitted. It is
Willies position that our rules on interruption of prescriptive period should apply. When he
sent his letters of demand, the 2-year period was tolled, giving him ample time to file his
complaint.
TC - The trial court ordered the dismissal of the case, holding that Art. 29(2) refers not to the
local forums rules in interrupting the prescriptive period but only to the rules of determining
the time in which the action was deemed commenced (meaning filed). Willie filed his
motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal only on the 14th day. The trial court
denied his motion and 2 days later Willie filed his notice of appeal. United Airlines this time
contended that the notice of appeal was filed beyond the 15-day reglementary period and
should therefore be dismissed.
CA - The CA, however, took cognizance of the case in the interest of justice and ruled in
favour of respondent. Hence, this petition for certiorari.

Issues/Ratio

1) Does the Warsaw Convention preclude the operation of the Civil Code and other pertinent laws?
2) Has the respondents cause of action prescribed?
1) No.
Within our jurisdiction we have held that the Warsaw Convention can be applied, or ignored,
depending on the peculiar facts presented by each case.
Convention provisions do not regulate or exclude liabilities for other breaches of contract by
the carrier or misconduct of its officers and employees, or for some particular or exceptional
type of damage.
Neither may the Convention be invoked to justify the disregard of some extraordinary type
of damage. Neither may the Convention be invoked to justify the disregard of some
extraordinary sort of damage resulting to a passenger and preclude recovery therefore
beyond the limits et by said convention.
Likewise, we have held that the Convention does not preclude the operation of the Civil
Code and other pertinent laws. It does not regulate, much less exempt, the carrier from
liability for damages for violating the rights of its passengers under the contract of carriage,
especially if willful misconduct on the part of the carriers employees is found or established.
2) No.
While his 2nd cause of action (an action for damages arising from theft or damage to
property or goods) is well within the bounds of the Warsaw convention, his 1st cause of
action (an action for damages arising from the misconduct of the airline employees and the
violation of respondents rights as passengers) clearly is not.
The 2-yr limitation incorporated in Art. 29 of the Warsaw Convention as an absolute bar to
suit and not to be made subject to the various tolling provisions of the laws of the forum,
forecloses the application of our own rules on interruption of prescriptive periods. (Art. 29,
par. 2 was indented only to let local laws determine whether an action shall be deemed
commenced upon the filing of a complaint.) Since, it is indisputable that respondent filed the
present action beyond the 2-yr time frame his 2nd cause of action must be barred.
However, it is obvious that respondent was forestalled from immediately filing an action
because petitioner gave him the runaround, answering his letters but not giving in to his
demands.
True, respondent should have already filed an action at the first instance when petitioner
denied his claims but the same could only be due to his desire to make an out-of-court
settlement for which he cannot be faulted.
Hence, despite the express mandate of Article 29 of the Warsaw Convention that an action
for damages should be filed within 2 years from the arrival at the place of destination, such
rule shall not be applied in the instant case because of the delaying tactics employed
by petitioner airlines itself.
Thus, respondents 2nd cause of action cannot be considered as time barred.
WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals reversing and setting aside the
appealed order of the trial court granting the motion to dismiss the complaint, as well as its
Resolution denying reconsideration, is AFFIRMED.

[Transpo | Prof. Angeles]