Cebuano passengers win suit against PAL

Posted on November 4, 2012

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Manila—The Supreme Court has finally resolved a 21-year-old claims suit filed against an airline and a travel agency by three Chinese-Filipino traders from Cebu City who missed a business deal in Hong Kong after they were bumped off from their flight to the then British crown colony.

In its Oct. 17 decision, the Supreme Court’s Third Division denied the Philippine Airlines plea to reverse a 2005 ruling by the Court of Appeals that awarded damages and compensation for attorney’s fees to Francisco Lao Lim, Manuel Limtong and to the heirs of the late Henry Go.

“Having proven the existence of a contract of carriage between respondents Lim and Go, and the fact of non-performance by [PAL] of its obligation as a common carrier, it is clear that [PAL] breached its contract of carriage with respondents Lim and Go,” the Supreme Court said in its 14-page decision penned by Justice Diosdado Peralta.

Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., division chair, and the three other division members, Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Roberto Abad and Jose Mendoza, concurred.

Lim, Limtong and Go bought PAL round-trip tickets from the Rainbow Tours and Travel Inc. on Feb. 22, 1991 for their trip to Hong Kong, where they were supposed to sign a contract on Feb. 26 for the purchase of weighing scales and to buy printing press equipment from another seller.

They took off from the Mactan International Airport in Cebu on Feb. 25 and landed in Manila the next day for their connecting morning flight to Hong Kong.

However, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Lim and Go found out that their names were not on the passenger list.

Only Limtong was able to take the flight. Lim and Go, both wait-listed, followed in a later flight.

However, as Lim and Go were late and Limtong unable to conduct the negotiation properly, the weighing scale contract was awarded to another buyer while the seller of the printing press equipment left Hong Kong and refused to meet them anymore.

The businessmen said they could have earned P3.56 million from the aborted deals and consequently sued PAL, then partly government-owned, for damages.

They also claimed P350,000 each in moral damages after accusing PAL staff of scolding and humiliating them as they pleaded for their flights.

The regional trial court found out that the 344-seat flight was overbooked by 44 seats.

Both the RTC and the Court of Appeals noted that PAL and Rainbow Tours officers agreed not to tell the traders that their confirmed bookings for the Manila-Hong Kong leg had been erroneously canceled and that the flight was on critical status due to the overbooking of passengers.

In 1996, the RTC ordered PAL and Rainbow Tours to pay each of the complainants P75,000 in temperate damages and P25,000 in attorney’s fees.

The Court of Appeals increased the award of damages to P200,000 each for exemplary, moral and temperate damages; and the attorney’s fees to P60,000.

The Supreme Court modified the decision by deleting the award of moral damages to the deceased Go, as well as the award of temperate damages to Limtong, since he was able to make the flight. /Inquirer

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