Saudi Arabian Airlines v. Court of Appeals

 Saudi Arabian Airlines v. Court of Appeals, 

G.R. No. 122191, 

October 8, 1998.

DOCTRINE: "Characterization", or the "Doctrine of qualification" is the "process of

deciding whether or not the facts relate to the kind of question specified in a conflict's

rule." The purpose of "characterization" is to enable the forum to select the proper law.

An essential element of conflict rules is the indication of a "test" or "connecting factor"

or "point of contact". Choice-of-law rules invariably consist of a factual relationship

(such as property right, contract claim) and a connecting factor or point of contact, such

as the situs of the res, the place of celebration, the place of performance, or the place of



On January 21, 1988 defendant SAUDIA hired plaintiff as a Flight Attendant for its

airlines based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. While on a lay-over in Jakarta, Indonesia,

plaintiff went to a disco dance with fellow crew members Thamer Al-Gazzawi and Allah

Al-Gazzawi, both Saudi nationals. Thamer attempted to rape plaintiff.

Morada refused to cooperate when SAUDIA’s Legal Officer and its base manager tried

to negotiate the immediate release of the detained crew members with Jakarta police.

Through the intercession of Saudi Arabian government, Thamer and Allah were

deported and, eventually, again put in service by SAUDIA. But Morada was transferred

to Manila. One year and a half year later, Morada was again ordered to see SAUDIA’s

Chief Legal Officer. Instead, she was brought to a Saudi court where she was asked to

sign a blank document, which turned out to be a notice to her to appear in court.

Monada returned to Manila. Defendant SAUDIA summoned plaintiff to report to Jeddah

once again and see Miniewy on June 27, 1993 for further investigation. Plaintiff did so

after receiving assurance from SAUDIA's Manila manger, Aslam Saleemi, that the

investigation was routinary and that it posed no danger to her. She was escorted by

SAUDIA’s legal officer to court, the judge rendered a decision against her sentencing

her to five months imprisonment and to 286 lashes. Apparently, she was tried by the

court which found her guilty of (1) adultery; (2) going to a disco, dancing and listening to

the music in violation of Islamic laws; and (3) socializing with the male crew, in

contravention of Islamic tradition. Because SAUDIA refused to lend her a hand in the

case, plaintiff sought the help of the Philippines Embassy in Jeddah. The latter helped

her pursue an appeal from the decision of the court. To pay for her upkeep, she worked

on the domestic flights of defendant SAUDIA while, ironically, Thamer and Allah freely

served the international flights.. Morada filed a complaint for damages against SAUDIA,

with the RTC of QC. SAUDIA filed Omnibus Motion to Dismiss which raised the ground

that the court has no jurisdiction, among others which was denied.

ISSUE: Whether or not the case may be tried under Philippine laws and may file for



YES. Where the factual antecedents satisfactorily establish the existence of a foreign

element, we agree with petitioner that the problem herein could present a "conflicts"

case. A factual situation that cuts across territorial lines and is affected by the diverse

laws of two or more states is said to contain a "foreign element". The presence of a

foreign element is inevitable since social and economic affairs of individuals and

associations are rarely confined to the geographic limits of their birth or conception.

In the instant case, the foreign element consisted in the fact that private respondent

Morada is a resident Philippine national, and that petitioner SAUDIA is a resident

foreign corporation. Also, by virtue of the employment of Morada with the petitioner

Saudia as a flight stewardess, events did transpire during her many occasions of travel

across national borders, particularly from Manila, Philippines to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia,

and vice versa, that caused a "conflicts" situation to arise. We thus find private

respondent's assertion that the case is purely domestic, imprecise. A conflicts problem

presents itself here, and the question of jurisdiction confronts the court a quo. Weighing

the relative claims of the parties, the court a quo found it best to hear the case in the

Philippines. Had it refused to take cognizance of the case, it would be forcing private

respondent to seek remedial action elsewhere, where she no longer maintains

substantial connections. That would have caused a fundamental unfairness to her.

Moreover, by hearing the case in the Philippines no unnecessary difficulties and

inconvenience have been shown by either of the parties. The choice of forum of the

private respondent should be upheld.

Considering that the complaint in the court a quo is one involving torts, the "connecting

factor" or "point of contact" could be the place or places where the tortious conduct or

lex loci actus occurred. And applying the torts principle in a conflicts case, we find that

the Philippines could be said as a situs of the tort (the place where the alleged tortious

conduct took place). This is because it is in the Philippines where petitioner allegedly

deceived private respondent, a Filipina residing and working here. According to her, she

had honestly believed that petitioner would, in the exercise of its rights and in the

performance of its duties, "act with justice, give her due and observe honesty and good

faith." Instead, petitioner failed to protect her, she claimed. That certain acts or parts of

the injury allegedly occurred in another country is of no moment. For in our view what is

important here is the place where the over-all harm or the totality of the alleged injury to

the person, reputation, social standing and human rights of complainant, had lodged,

according to the plaintiff below (herein private respondent). All told, it is not without

basis to identify the Philippines as the situs of the alleged tort.

Moreover, with the widespread criticism of the traditional rule of lex loci delicti commissi,

modern theories and rules on tort liability have been advanced to offer fresh judicial

approaches to arrive at just results. In keeping abreast with the modern theories on tort

liability, we find here an occasion to apply the "State of the most significant relationship"

rule, which in our view should be appropriate to apply now, given the factual context of

this case. Prescinding from this premise that the Philippines is the situs of the tort

complained of and the place "having the most interest in the problem", we find, by way

of recapitulation, that the Philippine law on tort liability should have paramount

application to and control in the resolution of the legal issues arising out of this case.

Further, we hold that the respondent Regional Trial Court has jurisdiction over the

parties and the subject matter of the complaint; the appropriate venue is in Quezon City,

which could properly apply Philippine law. Moreover, we find untenable petitioner's

insistence that "since private respondent instituted this suit, she has the burden of

pleading and proving the applicable Saudi law on the matter." As aptly said by private

respondent, she has "no obligation to plead and prove the law of the Kingdom of Saudi

Arabia since her cause of action is based on Articles 19 and 21" of the Civil Code of the

Philippines. In her Amended Complaint and subsequent pleadings, she never alleged

that Saudi law should govern this case. And as correctly held by the respondent

appellate court, "considering that it was the petitioner who was invoking the applicability

of the law of Saudi Arabia, then the burden was on it petitioner to plead and to establish

what the law of Saudi Arabia is".

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