Lex Rex Ph

YHT Realty vs. CA Digest

Topic: Necessary deposits

Facts

McLoughlin, an Australian businessman, stayed in Tropicana hotel from 1984 to 1987. He rented a safety deposit box which could be opened by the use of 2 keys: (a) one by the guest, and (b) one by the management of the hotel. The guest alone could request the management who will then assign one employee to accompany him and assist him in opening the safety deposit box.

When McLoughlin went to several trips abroad, he left thousands of dollars and jewelry in the safety deposit box. There are two cases where noticed that cash and jewelry were missing. He then confronted the employees, and one admitted that he was assisted by the others. Lopez executed a promissory note but McLoughlin insisted that hotel Tropicana must assume responsibility. Lopez refused to accept the responsibility relying on the posted notices absolving Tropicana for responsibility in relation to the rent of the deposit box, which held free and blameless Tropicana for any loss in the contents of the safety deposit box.

Issues:

May a hotel evade liability for loss of items left with it for safekeeping by executing waivers with its guests?

Ruling:

No. Hotels posting notices absolving themselves from liability is void. Article 2003 of the New Civil Code provides that the hotel-keeper cannot free himself from responsibility by posting notices to the effect that he is not liable for the articles brought by the guest. Any stipulation between the hotel-keeper and the guest whereby the reasonability of the former as set for the in articles 1998 to 2001 is suppressed or diminished shall be void. 

Twin duties of hotel: Lodging and security

Twin duty imbued with public interest: lodging and security. The hotel business like the common carrier’s business is imbued with public interest. Catering to the public, hotelkeepers are bound to provide not only lodging for hotel guests and security to their persons and belongings. The twin duty constitutes the essence of the business. 

Mere “undertakings” appearing in hotel forms cannot negate or dilute the law. When such undertaking apparently released Tropicana from liability arising from any loss in the contents of the safety deposit box for any cause whatsoever, this undertaking manifestly contravened Article 2003 of the Civil Code and is therefore void. (Art. 2003 NCC)

Deposit with staff is not necessary. Effects being inside the hotel is sufficient, and liability is even greater if items were taken out of the deposit box without guest’s consent

In an early case, to hold hotel-keepers or innkeepers liable for the effects of their guests, it is not necessary that they be actually delivered to the innkeepers or their employees. It is enough that such effects are within the hotel or inn.

Hotel is responsible because the theft or robbery was not done with the use of arms or through an irresistible force (Art. 2001)

The New Civil Code is explicit that the responsibility of the hotel keeper shall extend to loss of, or injury to, the personal property of the guests even if caused by servants or employees of the keepers of hotels or inns as well as by strangers, except as it may proceed from any force majeure. The loss through force majeure may spare the hotel keeper from liability. In the case at bar, there is no showing that the act of the thief or robber was done with the use of arms or through an irresistible force to qualify the same as force majeure.

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