New World vs NYK-FILJapan (G.R. No. 171468 August 24, 2011)

New World International Philippines Inc. vs Nyk-FilJapan Shipping Corp.
G.R. No. 171468 August 24, 2011

Facts: Petitioner New World International Development (Phils.), Inc. (New World) bought from DMT Corporation (DMT) through its agent, Advatech Industries, Inc. (Advatech) three emergency generator sets worth US$721,500.00.  DMT shipped the generator sets by truck from Wisconsin, United States, to LEP Profit International, Inc. (LEP Profit) in Chicago, Illinois. From there, the shipment went by train to Oakland, California, where it was loaded on S/S California Luna V59, owned and operated by NYK Fil-Japan Shipping Corporation (NYK) for delivery to petitioner New World in Manila. NYK issued a bill of lading, declaring that it received the goods in good condition.  NYK unloaded the shipment in Hong Kong and transshipped it to S/S ACX Ruby V/72 that it also owned and operated. On its journey to Manila, however, ACX Ruby encountered typhoon Kadiang whose captain filed a sea protest on arrival at the Manila South Harbor on October 5, 1993 respecting the loss and damage that the goods on board his vessel suffered. Marina Port Services, Inc. (Marina), the Manila South Harbor arrastre or cargo-handling operator, received the shipment on October 7, 1993. Upon inspection of the three container vans separately carrying the generator sets, two vans bore signs of external damage while the third van appeared unscathed. The shipment remained at Pier 3s Container Yard under Marinas care pending clearance from the Bureau of Customs. Eventually, on October 20, 1993 customs authorities allowed petitioners customs broker, Serbros Carrier Corporation (Serbros), to withdraw the shipment and deliver the same to petitioner New Worlds job site in Makati City. An examination of the three generator sets in the presence of petitioner New Worlds representatives, Federal Builders (the project contractor) and surveyors of petitioner New Worlds insurer, SeaboardEastern Insurance Company (Seaboard), revealed that all three sets suffered extensive damage and could no longer be repaired. For these reasons, New World demanded recompense for its loss from respondents NYK, DMT, Advatech, LEP Profit, LEP International Philippines, Inc. (LEP), Marina, and Serbros. While LEP and NYK acknowledged receipt of the demand, both denied liability for the loss.

Issue: Whether or not petitioner is entitled to the claim based from the insurance policy including interests in the delay of the release of such claim.

Held: Yes. The marine open policy that Seaboard issued to New World was an all-risk policy. Such a policy insured against all causes of conceivable loss or damage except when otherwise excluded or when the loss or damage was due to fraud or intentional misconduct committed by the insured. The policy covered all losses during the voyage whether or not arising from a marine peril.

Here, the policy enumerated certain exceptions like unsuitable packaging, inherent vice, delay in voyage, or vessels unseaworthiness, among others. But Seaboard had been unable to show that petitioner New Worlds loss or damage fell within some or one of the enumerated exceptions.

Seaboard cannot pretend that the above documents are inadequate since they were precisely the documents listed in its insurance policy. Being a contract of adhesion, an insurance policy is construed strongly against the insurer who prepared it. The Court cannot read a requirement in the policy that was not there.

Section 241 of the Insurance Code provides that no insurance company doing business in the Philippines shall refuse without just cause to pay or settle claims arising under coverages provided by its policies. And, under Section 243, the insurer has 30 days after proof of loss is received and ascertainment of the loss or damage within which to pay the claim. If such ascertainment is not had within 60 days from receipt of evidence of loss, the insurer has 90 days to pay or settle the claim. And, in case the insurer refuses or fails to pay within the prescribed time, the insured shall be entitled to interest on the proceeds of the policy for the duration of delay at the rate of twice the ceiling prescribed by the Monetary Board.

Notably, Seaboard already incurred delay when it failed to settle petitioner New Worlds claim as Section 243 required. Under Section 244, a prima facie evidence of unreasonable delay in payment of the claim is created by the failure of the insurer to pay the claim within the time fixed in Section 243.

Consequently, Seaboard should pay interest on the proceeds of the policy for the duration of the delay until the claim is fully satisfied at the rate of twice the ceiling prescribed by the Monetary Board. The term ceiling prescribed by the Monetary Board means the legal rate of interest of 12% per annum provided in Central Bank Circular 416, pursuant to Presidential Decree 116. Section 244 of the Insurance Code also provides for an award of attorneys fees and other expenses incurred by the assured due to the unreasonable withholding of payment of his claim.

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