The Supreme Court recently found Vector Shipping Corporation (Vector Shipping) and its owner Francisco Soriano liable to reimburse and indemnify Sulpicio Lines, Inc. (Sulpicio Lines) for the damages the latter had been adjudged to pay the family of some victims of the sinking of its MV Doña Paz after the vessel collided with oil tanker MT Vector on December 20, 1987.
In a 12-page decision penned by Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, the High Court’s Third Division affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals (CA) which upheld the third-party liability of petitioners Soriano and Vector Shipping in the maritime accident. The petitioners were ordered to pay Sulpicio Lines PhP800,000.00, the total amount due the Macasa family whose kin were among the passengers of the sunken MV Doña Paz.
Stressing that it is not a trier of facts, the High Court that it “accords respect to the factual findings of the trial court, especially if affirmed by the CA on appeal. Unless the trial court overlooked substantial matters that would alter the outcome of the case, this Court will not disturb such findings. In any event, we have meticulously reviewed the records of the case and found no reason to depart form the rule.”
The Court also took judicial notice of its decision in Caltex Philippines, Inc. v. Sulpicio Lines where it ruled that MT Vector was unseaworthy at the time of the accident and that its negligence was the cause of the collision that led to the sinking of the Sulpicio vessel.
In 1991, the Macasas filed a complaint for damages arising out of breach of contract of carriage against Sulpicio Lines before the Davao City Regional Trial Court, Branch 17 for the death of Cornelio, Anacleta, and Ritchie Macasas, who boarded the Manila-bound MV Doña Paz at Tacloban, Leyte on December 19, 1987. After the RTC found Vector Shipping, Soriano, and Caltex, the charterer of MT Vector, liable to Sulpicio Lines for the damages to be paid the Macasas, the aggrieved parties assailed the decision before the CA. The appellate court upheld the RTC ruling with modifications, exonerating Caltex and reducing the amount of damages. (GR No. 160219, Vector Shipping Corp. v. Macasa, July 21, 2008)