Alpha Insurance vs Castor (G.R. No. 198174 September 2, 2013)

Alpha Insurance and Surety Co. vs Castor
G.R. No. 198174 September 2, 2013

Facts: On February 21, 2007, respondent entered into a contract of insurance, Motor Car Policy No. MAND/CV-00186, with petitioner, involving her motor vehicle, a Toyota Revo DLX DSL. The contract of insurance obligates the petitioner to pay the respondent the amount of Six Hundred Thirty Thousand Pesos (P 630,000.00) in case of loss or damage to said vehicle during the period covered, which is from February 26, 2007 to February 26, 2008. On April 16, 2007, at about 9:00 a.m., respondent instructed her driver, Jose Joel Salazar Lanuza (Lanuza), to bring the above-described vehicle to a nearby auto-shop for a tune-up. However, Lanuza no longer returned the motor vehicle to respondent and despite diligent efforts to locate the same, said efforts proved futile. Resultantly, respondent promptly reported the incident to the police and concomitantly notified petitioner of the said loss and demanded payment of the insurance proceeds in the total sum of P 630,000.00. In a letter dated July 5, 2007, petitioner denied the insurance claim of respondent, stating among others, thus: Upon verification of the documents submitted, particularly the Police Report and your Affidavit, which states that the culprit, who stole the Insured unit, is employed with you. We would like to invite you on the provision of the Policy under Exceptions to Section-III.

Issue: Whether or not respondent Castor is entitled to the insurance policy for the loss of her car by her driver.

Held: Yes. It is a basic rule in the interpretation of contracts that the terms of a contract are to be construed according to the sense and meaning of the terms which the parties thereto have used. In the case of property insurance policies, the evident intention of the contracting parties, i.e., the insurer and the assured, determine the import of the various terms and provisions embodied in the policy. However, when the terms of the insurance policy are ambiguous, equivocal or uncertain, such that the parties themselves disagree about the meaning of particular provisions, the policy will be construed by the courts liberally in favor of the assured and strictly against the insurer.

A contract of insurance is a contract of adhesion. So, when the terms of the insurance contract contain limitations on liability, courts should construe them in such a way as to preclude the insurer from non-compliance with his obligation.

Theft perpetrated by the driver of the insured is not an exception to the coverage from the insurance policy, since Section III thereof did not qualify as to who would commit the theft.

Therefore, petitioner cannot exclude the loss of respondent’s vehicle under the insurance policy under paragraph 4 of “Exceptions to Section III,” since the same refers only to “malicious damage,” or more specifically, “injury” to the motor vehicle caused by a person under the insured’s service. Paragraph 4 clearly does not contemplate “loss of property,” as what happened in the instant case.

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