BAGUIO CITY – The Supreme Court ordered Japan Airlines to pay P800,000 to a Filipino kidney donor bound for the United States for bumping him off in its flight in 1992 on mere suspicion that he was holding a fake visa.
In a 21-page decision penned by Associate Justice Ruben Reyes on Tuesday, the Court’s Third Division, denied the petition of JAL to reverse the September 2000 decision of Judge Floro Alejo of the Valenzuela City Regional Trial Court (RTC) but modified the P1.75 million in damages and attorney’s fees awarded by the lower court.
The high court asked JAL to pay Jesus Simangan P600,000 in damages and P200,000 in attorney’s fees. The amount would earn an interest of 6 percent per annum since the RTC decision on 2000.
The SC justices are holding their summer sessions in this city.
In 1991, Simangan decided to donate a kidney to his cousin, Loreto Simangan, after tests proved that their blood and tissue types matched. Jesus was issued an emergency visa and bought a round trip ticket from JAL to Los Angeles via Narita, Japan.
Jesus Simangan was allowed to board the plane on July 29, 1992, but while inside, the crew suspected that he was carrying falsified visa and travel documents to work illegally in Japan.
A stewardess ordered him out of the plane and it was only when the plane left that he was informed that his papers were in order. JAL refunded his ticket, but it was deducted $500, and his emergency US visa was subsequently cancelled.
Simangan filed an action for damages against JAL at the Valenzuela RTC for P3 million but JAL lodged a counterclaim, saying authentication of the “parole visa” took time and that Simangan supposedly agreed to be rebooked a day later.
JAL appealed and the Court of Appeals, in May 2005, sided with the RTC but reduced the damages to P750,000.
The SC said it is not a trier of facts and relies upon and is bound only by the conclusions of the lower courts, which are better equipped and had more time to assess the evidence.
“Chiefly, the issues are factual. The RTC findings of facts were affirmed by the CA,” it said.
The court also said JAL was guilty of breach of contract of carriage by preventing Simangan from leaving the country aboard its plane.
“He was not allowed by JAL to fly. JAL thus failed to comply with its obligation under its contract of carriage,” it said.
“It bears repeating the power to admit or not an alien into the country is a sovereign act which cannot be interfered with even by JAL,” the decision said.
It said Simangan was entitled to moral and exemplary damages and that the modified amount was reasonable and realistic.
The court said JAL’s counterclaim, based on damages supposedly caused by the publication of Simangan’s complaint in a newspaper, could not be granted.