Last clear chance doctrine in negligence and damages | Inquirer Business

Last clear chance doctrine in negligence and damages

/ 11:21 AM July 05, 2023

Deocampo was driving a Datsun crewcab owned by Ladeco when he bumped into a Chevy pick-up in front of the crewcab. The pick-up was driven by Bernulfo Borres and owned by Michael Angala. The left door, front left fender, and part of the front bumper of the pick-up were damaged.

Angala filed an action for damages against the owner of the crewcab and the driver. (Ladeco and Apolonio R. Deocampo vs. Michael Raymond Angala G.R. No. 153076, June 21, 2007)

In another case, a company entrusted cash to its employee for deposit to the company’s bank account in Philippine Bank of Commerce. For more than a year, the employee would write on the deposit slip the account number of her husband, who also opened an account with the same bank, instead of the company’s bank account number. On the duplicate of the deposit slip, the employee would write down only her husband’s account number without the account name. The employee would tell the bank teller that the duplicate was for record keeping purposes only, and that she would later fill in the name of the depositor. The bank teller accepted, stamped, and validated the deposit slips, which were incomplete and this was against the policy of requiring deposit slips to be filled up completely. After the deposit had been made, the employee would then fill in the company’s name as the depositor and then change the account number of her husband to the company’s account number, prior to submitting them to the company. (Philippine Bank of Commerce vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 97626 March 14, 1997)


Upon discovering the fraud, the company filed a collection case in court and demanded that the bank return the money stolen by their employee.


Negligence by all parties

In both cases above, all the parties were found to have acted negligently. The driver of the crewcab and pick-up were both negligent, while the company and the bank were also found to be negligent.

The courts found that Deocampo, the crewcab driver, was at fault because he was driving very fast prior to the collision. Deocampo himself admitted that not only he did not slow down but he only stepped on the brakes after the collision with the pick-up. On the other hand, the driver of the pick-up was also found negligent because it was on the outer lane of the road when it executed the U-turn. (Lapanday Agricultural and Development Corp or Ladeco  and Apolonio R. Deocampo vs. Michael Raymond Angala G.R. No. 153076, June 21, 2007)

In the second case, the account holder was negligent for trusting such an employee as well as not checking its regular bank statements which did not reflect the deposits made.

The courts also found that the bank was negligent in the supervision and selection of its employee, the bank teller, who did not faithfully observe the validation procedure nor probe or inquire as to why the deposit slips were not completely filled up before accepting the deposit.

Last clear chance doctrine

In both cases, the Supreme Court applied the last clear chance doctrine which provides that where both parties are negligent, but the negligent act of one is appreciably later than that of the other, or where it is impossible to determine whose fault or negligence caused the loss, the one who had the last clear opportunity to avoid the loss but failed to do so is chargeable with the loss and damage.

In the Ladeco case, it was determined that Deocampo had the last clear chance to avoid the collision as he was driving at the rear of the vehicle hit. He had full control of the situation, was in a position to observe the vehicle in front of him, and he could have avoided the vehicle if he was not driving so fast. The court also noted that the driver of the crewcab did not step on the brakes even after seeing the pick-up in front of it.


In the Philippine Bank of Commerce case, the court also decided in favor of the company-claimant, as it found that the bank, through its teller, had the last clear opportunity to avert the injury incurred by its client, simply by faithfully observing their self-imposed validation procedure. The bank teller should have proceeded with caution by inquiring as to the true reason why the name of the account holder in the duplicate slip was left blank, whereas the original deposit slip was filled up. In the words of the court, the teller should not have been so naive in accepting hook, line and sinker the too-shallow excuse of the erring employee.

When the last clear chance doctrine is not applicable

Before we end, it is important to note that the last clear chance doctrine has not been applied by the Supreme Court in other instances:

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  • When the Supreme Court applied the provisions of Article 2176 of the Civil Code which provides for proximate cause and contributory negligence. (Phoenix Construction vs. IAC, G.R. No. L-65295 March 10, 1987)
  • The last clear chance doctrine is not applicable when only 1 party is negligent. (Ofracio vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 221981 ,November 04, 2020)
  • In vehicle collisions, the doctrine only applies in cases between the owners and drivers of the vehicles and it does not apply where a passenger demands responsibility from the carrier to enforce its contractual obligations (Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines, Inc. vs. IAC, G.R. No. 66102-04, August 30, 1990)
  •  The doctrine of “last clear chance” also finds no application in instances where the other party was not expected to know of the existence of the danger, and is required to act instantaneously. Where the injury cannot be avoided by the application of all means at hand, after the peril is or should have been discovered.

(The author, Atty. John Philip C. Siao, is a practicing lawyer and founding Partner of Tiongco Siao Bello & Associates Law Offices, teaches law at the MLQU School of Law, and an Arbitrator of the Construction Industry Arbitration Commission of the Philippines. He may be contacted at [email protected]. The views expressed in this article belong to the author alone.)

TAGS: For Law's sake

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