Travellers Insurance vs CA (G.R. No. 82036 May 22, 1997)

Travellers Insurance & Surety Corporation vs Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 82036 May 22, 1997

Facts: At about 5:30 oclock in the morning of July 20, 1980, a 78-year old woman by the name of Feliza Vineza de Mendoza was on her way to hear mass at the Tayuman Cathedral. While walking along Tayuman corner Gregorio Perfecto Streets, she was bumped by a taxi that was running fast. Several persons witnessed the accident, among whom were Rolando Marvilla, Ernesto Lopez and Eulogio Tabalno. After the bumping, the old woman was seen sprawled on the pavement. Right away, the good Samaritan that he was, Marvilla ran towards the old woman and held her on his lap to inquire from her what had happened, but obviously she was already in shock and could not talk. At this moment, a private jeep stopped. With the driver of that vehicle, the two helped board the old woman on the jeep and brought her to the Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo. The victim was brought to the U.S.T. Hospital where she expired at 9:00 oclock that same morning. Death was caused by traumatic shock as a result of the severe injuries she sustained. The evidence shows that at the moment the victim was bumped by the vehicle, the latter was running fast, so much so that because of the strong impact the old woman was thrown away and she fell on the pavement. The trial court in it’s decision held Travellers Insurance to be solidarily liable against private respondent with the taxicab driver and operator.

Issue: Whether or not the trial court’s decision is proper.

Held: No. The right of the person injured to sue the insurer of the party at fault (insured), depends on whether the contract of insurance is intended to benefit third persons also or on the insured. And the test applied has been this: Where the contract provides for indemnity against liability to third persons, then third persons to whom the insured is liable can sue the insurer. Where the contract is for indemnity against actual loss or payment, then third persons cannot proceed against the insurer, the contract being solely to reimburse the insured for liability actually discharged by him thru payment to third persons, said third persons recourse being thus limited to the insured alone.

While it is true that where the insurance contract provides for indemnity against liability to third persons, such third persons can directly sue the insurer, however, the direct liability of the insurer under indemnity contracts against third party liability does not mean that the insurer can be held solidarily liable with the insured and/or the other parties found at fault. The liability of the insurer is based on contract; that of the insured is based on tort.

We have certainly ruled with consistency that the prescriptive period to bring suit in court under an insurance policy, begins to run from the date of the insurers rejection of the claim filed by the insured, the beneficiary or any person claiming under an insurance contract. This ruling is premised upon the compliance by the persons suing under an insurance contract, with the indispensable requirement of having filed the written claim mandated by Section 384 of the Insurance Code before and after its amendment. Absent such written claim filed by the person suing under an insurance contract, no cause of action accrues under such insurance contract, considering that it is the rejection of that claim that triggers the running of the one-year prescriptive period to bring suit in court, and there can be no opportunity for the insurer to even reject a claim if none has been filed in the first place, as in the instant case

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