DANTE LATONIO AND MARY ANN LATONIO and the minor ED CHRISTIAN LATONIO, Petitioners, vs. MCGEORGE FOOD INDUSTRIES INC., CEBU GOLDEN FOODS INDUSTRIES, INC., and TYKE PHILIP LOMIBAO, Respondents.
GR No. 206184, December 6, 2017
TOPIC: torts, proximate cause
On September 17, 2000, the petitioners, spouses Ed and Mary Ann Latonio accompanied their eight-month-old child Ed Christian to a birthday party at the McDonald’s Restaurant, Ayala Center, Cebu City.
During the party and as part of the birthday package, McDonald’s presented two mascots – “Birdie” and “Grimace” – to entertain and dance for the guests. Respondent Tyke Philip Lomibao was the person inside the “Birdie” mascot suit.
After the mascots danced, guests had their pictures taken with them. Intending to have her child’s photo taken with the mascots, Mary Ann placed Ed Christian on a chair in front of the mascot “Birdie.” The mascot positioned itself behind the child and extended its “wings” to give a good pose for the camera.
As photos were about to be taken, Mary Ann released her hold of Ed Christian. Seconds later, the child fell head first from the chair onto the floor. Several guests attended to Ed Christian. Meanwhile, the employees of respondent Cebu Golden Food assisted petitioners in giving first aid treatment to Ed Christian. Petitioners, nevertheless, remained and continued with the party and left only after the party was over.
Respondent corporation assured the Latonios that they were ready to assist in whatever medical attention would be required of Ed Christian. However, instead of giving respondent Cebu Golden Food copies of the medical records of Ed Christian, the Latonios demanded compensation in the amount of P15 million.
RTC found respondents Cebu Golden Foods and Lomibao to be liable of moral damages, exemplary damages and attorney’s fees. CA reversed RTC’s decision.
Whether or not Mary Ann Latonio’s negligence was the proximate cause of Ed Christian’s fall.
The Supreme Court agreed with CA that despite Mary Ann’s insistence that she made sure that her baby was safe and secured before she released her grasp on Ed Christian, her own testimony revealed that she had, in fact, acted negligently and carelessly.
The Court likewise agreed with the pronouncement of CA that indeed, it is irresponsible for a mother to entrust the safety, even momentarily, of her eight-month-old child to a mascot, not to mention a bird mascot in thick leather suit that had no arms to hold the child and whose diminished ability to see, hear, feel, and move freely was readily apparent. Moreover, by merely tapping the mascot and saying “pa-picture ta”, Mary Ann Latonio cannot be said to have “told, informed and instructed the mascot that she was letting the mascot hold the baby momentarily.” Releasing her grasp of the baby without waiting for any indication that the mascot heard and understood her is just plain negligence on the part of Mary Ann.
Clearly, based on the foregoing, Mary Ann’s negligence was the proximate cause of Ed Christian’s fall which caused him injury.
The Court added that the cause of Ed Christian’s fall is traceable to the negligent act of Mary Ann of leaving him in the “hands” of Lomibao who was wearing the Birdie mascot suit. The Court noted that “hands” and “wings” were used interchangeably during the testimonies of the witnesses, thus, causing confusion. However, it must be stressed that while indeed Lomibao has hands of his own, at the time of the incident he was wearing the Birdie mascot suit. Suffice it to say that the Birdie mascot suit have no hands but instead have wings. Lomibao cannot possibly hold or grasp anything while wearing the thick Birdie mascot suit. In fact, even if he wanted to hold Ed Christian or anything, he could not possibly do so.
Thus, all the aforementioned circumstances lead us to no other conclusion than that the proximate cause of the injury sustained by Ed Christian was due to Mary Ann’s own negligence. All told, in the absence of negligence on the part of respondents Cebu Golden Foods and Lomibao, as well as their management and staff, they cannot be made liable to pay for the damages prayed for by the petitioners.