Airline, liable for lost luggage

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Sunday, August 10, 2014


AN AIRLINE was ordered to pay a total of P210,500 to a passenger whose luggage was lost during his Singapore-bound flight from Cebu in 2008.

The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the ruling by a Cebu City trial court that found Cebu Pacific liable for the missing baggage of Ernesto Galileo Medalle.

“It is beyond dispute that Cebu (Pacific) Air breached its contract of carriage when it failed to deliver (Medalle's) luggage at the designated place and time, it being the obligation of a common carrier to carry its passengers and their luggage safely to their destination,” read the CA ruling penned by Associate Justice Edgardo delos Santos.

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Associate Justices Marilyn Lagura-Yap and Jhosep Lopez concurred.

Breach

The case stemmed from the complaint of breach of contract of carriage that Medalle lodged against Cebu Pacific before a Cebu City Regional Trial Court on Jan.8, 2009.

Also named respondents were the airline’s president Lance Gokongwei, corporate secretary Atty. Rosalinda Rivera, Cebu station managers Johnny Yap and Romela Mutia, and the airline’s Manila representative Daphne Ty.

In his complaint, Medalle said he boarded Cebu Pacific’s Flight 5J 580 bound for Singapore on Sept. 1, 2008.

Before his flight, he checked-in his baggage containing his personal belongings and was issued a luggage tag.

When he arrived in Singapore, Medalle said he went to the baggage retrieval area to claim his checked-in item, but he discovered that it was missing.

He immediately informed the Cebu Pacific personnel, who advised him to accomplish and submit an irregularity report.

He also repeatedly called the airline’s office in Cebu City to follow up his missing luggage but failed to get a positive response.

Medalle’s sister, Avi, also went to Cebu Pacific’s office in Cebu City to pursue the matter, but she allegedly received unpleasant treatment from the airline personnel.

In its answer to the suit, Cebu Pacific said it is exercising “extraordinary diligence at all times” in the handling of its passengers’ luggage.

The airline claimed that Medalle did not declare the content and value of his luggage, contrary to the terms and conditions of the contract of carriage.

Liability

The firm also said that the liability for the loss of such baggage is limited to US $20 per kilo.

On Aug. 28, 2012, the trial court found Cebu Pacific guilty of gross negligence resulting in bad faith.

It ordered Cebu Pacific to pay Medalle P10,500 in actual damages; P100,000 as moral damages; P50,000 as exemplary damages; P50,000 as litigation expenses; P30,000 as attorney's fees plus P2,000.00 as per court appearance.

The airline appealed the trial court’s ruling before the CA.

In the decision, the justices denied Cebu Pacific’s appeal, saying that the trial court “acted judiciously” when it granted damages in favor of Medalle.

“For the loss of the plaintiff’s luggage which was admittedly never recovered, the liability of Cebu Air cannot be denied,” the justices said.
While it affirmed the trial court’s ruling, the justices reduced to P50,000 the award for attorney's fees and litigation expenses. (GMD)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 10, 2014.

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