PAL loses damage claim against ex pilot

August 10, 2010

Philippine Airlines lose its civil case against one of its A320 pilots for its failure to substantiate claim for the cost of its training.

The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the ruling of the Regional Trial Court of Makati City on June 19, 2008, which dismissed civil damages filed by PAL against pilot captain Antonio Halagueña.

PAL was seeking P1.2 million compensation and damages for his alleged failure to comply with the terms and conditions of the training agreement he signed with the airline company.

CA Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro dismissed Philippine Airlines' (PAL) charges of alleged breach of contract on grounds of previous payments by the pilot and lack of supporting evidence on the part of PAL to justify its other claims.

The Court said PAL filed the suit before the trial court to seek payment of the balance on the pilot's training on May 9, 2005 or almost two years after he paid the airline P401,480 representing full monetary obligations under the training agreement.

Court documents disclosed that PAL hired Halagueña as pilot trainee for A320 on March 11, 2002 and offered him the training program that it provides for all its pilots wishing to operate its newer aircraft.Halagueña underwent training until May 19, 2002, after which he qualified as captain of its Airbus A320. The training contract containing the terms and conditions of the training program was signed by Halagueña on March 22, 2003.

Halagueña tendered his resignation to the airline a year later on October 31, 2003 which took effect immediately. Consequently, he failed to report for his flight and reserve pilot assignments from that date and was declared by the airline to have abandoned its post on January 15, 2004.

PAL Representative Captain Johnny Andrews later told Halagueña through his wife, Patricia, that her husband would be cleared from financial liability if he reimbursed the amount of P401,480.

On November 24, 2003, PAL received from Halagueña's wife the amount of P401,480 as full payment for his monetary obligations under the training agreement.

PAL however insisted that Halagueña resignation was a breach of their agreement and demanded the pilot to pay the balance of P252,951 representing the expenses for his training plus 14% interest per annum until it is paid. It also demanded reimbursement for expenses it incurred to train another pilot amounting to P1.05 million.

Halagueña ignored PAL's demands,prompting the airline to file a damage suit before the Makati RTC.

The CA also ruled "Thus, under the principle of estoppel by laches," PAL has already waived its right to collect the supposed balance amount.

Estoppel by laches is an equitable remedy in court described as the failure of the party to assert its right in due time, thus, leading to "a presumption that the party entitled to assert it has abandoned to defend it or has agreed to the correctness of the resolution."

"All things considered, we find and so rule that the wealth of evidence in this case sustains the conclusion of the RTC that Halagueña is no longer liable to PAL. Hence, there is no reason to depart from the said findings," says the Court of Appeals.

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