Taguig City

CA affirms dismissal of P30-million lawsuit over Two Serendra blast


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CA affirms dismissal of P30-million lawsuit over Two Serendra blast
The petitioner, Marianne Cayton, and her legal counsel fail to show up during the pre-trial

MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of the P30-million damage suit against Alveo Land Corporation and two other companies over the 2013 Two Serendra blast due to a legal procedure technicality: the petitioner and her counsel failed to show up during the pre-trial.

In a 12-page ruling, the CA’s Fifteenth Division dismissed the petition filed by Marianne Cayton, who sought to overturn the September 14, 2017, decision issued by Judge Paz Esperanza Cortes of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Taguig City Branch 271. 

Cayton owned a unit, which suffered significant damage due to the explosion. One of the victims, Angelito San Juan, was a tenant in Cayton’s unit at the time of the incident. (READ: TIMELINE: The 2013 Serendra blast)

The lower court had dismissed the civil suit due to the failure of Cayton and her counsel to attend the pre-trial and submit a pre-trial brief, as required by the Rules of Court.

In Cayton’s motion for reconsideration, she argued that Judge Cortes had committed grave abuse of discretion by dismissing the complaint, noting that she and her counsel did not receive a formal order to appear in court. They only got a text message from the court staff, informing them about the pre-trial date. 

Additionally, Cayton said that her lawyer had a valid reason to be excused due to a scheduling conflict with another case in Tarlac City. 

However, the CA denied Cayton’s appeal, emphasizing that parties are required to attend the pre-trial conference. The CA acknowledged that there may be instances where non-appearance could be excused at the judge’s discretion, but it said that unless there was clear and manifest abuse of discretion, the judge’s decision should stand. 

“It is more than a simple marking of evidence. It is not a mere technicality in court proceedings, for it serves a vital objective: the simplification, abbreviation, and expedition of the trial, if not indeed its dispensation,” the CA said.

Alveo Land, Makati Development Corporation, and Bonifacio Gas Corporation earlier sought the dismissal of the complaint. The companies argued that the unauthorized movement of a gas range in Cayton’s unit during renovation caused the gas leak.

The CA then, however, declared that it was the companies’ negligence and lack of safeguards that led to the explosion.

The Two Serendra blast on the night of May 31, 2013, took the lives of four people: three Abenson employees who were in the area when the truck they were driving was crushed by the blown-out wall, and San Juan, the guest occupant of Cayton’s unit. A four-month investigation concluded that the blast was caused by a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) leak. Rappler.com

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