by: JD Garcia (Photo: screen capture from the F1 Youtube Channel)
Two horses squeezed a bull that caused a bloke to win a cup.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch this:
This was the start of the F1 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. A disastrous race for the Ferraris that may very well have sealed the deal for Lewis Hamilton this season. With just six races left, Hamilton now has a 28-point lead in the driver standings ahead of Vettel (boo!).
What happened? Well, Vettel had pole position, with Verstappen behind him. As you’ll see in the video, when they got off to the races Vettel kind of veered towards his left, where Verstappen was, who, in turn, had Kimi on his [Verstappen] left on the inside lane. Verstappen was basically sandwiched in between the two Ferraris and the collision was inevitable.
Who’s fault was it? Race stewards said that it was a racing incident, which means that no one was at fault. However, pundits were quick to blame Vettel for his reckless driving . Then again, even Hamilton defended Vettel, saying that it wasn’t reckless driving. To my mind, it’s still not clear who’s to blame for this mess. Did Vettel cut Verstappen recklessly? Could Verstappen have slowed down to avoid the collision? Was Kimi at fault for trying to pass through the inside lane knowing how tight it was? We can sit here and argue all day but, as we always do here in Batas Sportiva, we can look at this situation from a Philippine law perspective (because, nerds).
First, let’s pretend that Vettel (aka “Basti”), Verstappen (aka “Max”) and Kimi (aka “Kuya Kim”) were all driving along EDSA. Once Basti, Max, and Kuya Kim had figured into a vehicular mishap, they would have gotten out of their cars and started shouting and blaming each other (with Max taking a video for the gram).
Luckily for Kuya Kim, he has a lawyer friend (aka “Louis Litt”) whom he calls and asks, “Bro, I got into an accident eh. Binangga my car. Anong gagawin ko, dude?” (Kuya Kim is cool).
So, what does Louis tell Kuya Kim?
“Bro, corporate lawyer ako (yes, lawyers have specializations too like doctors). But…” and Louis says:
There’s a legal principle called “Proximate Cause.” This is defined as, “that cause, which, in natural and continuous sequence, unbroken by any efficient intervening cause, produces the injury, and without which the result would not have occurred.” To be more confusing, proximate cause “is that acting first and producing the injury, either immediately or by setting other events in motion, all constituting a natural and continuous chain of events, each having a close causal connection with its immediate predecessor, the final event in the chain immediately effecting the injury as a natural and probable result of the cause which first acted, under such circumstances that the person responsible for the first event should, as an ordinary prudent and intelligent person, have reasonable ground to expect at the moment of his act or default that an injury to some person might probably result therefrom.”
Kuya Kim didn’t seem to understand so Louis explains, “Bro, just ask yourself, ano o sino ba ng puno’t dulo nito?”
At the risk of being over simplistic, “Proximate Cause” refers to the act that led directly to the incident (with nothing happening in between that would have resulted to a different outcome). For instance, if I eat a donut and gain weight from it, I cannot tell my wife, it’s Dunkin Donuts’ fault for being so yummy! You can’t blame the deliciousness of butternut on me?! Nope. That won’t work. I gained weight because of my insatiable lust for sweet fried dough. In the same way, if a car runs through a red light and collides with another vehicle then he can’t say it wasn’t his fault because the incident was caused by his blatant disregard for basic traffic rules.
After hearing this, Kuya Kim goes on a rant against Basti and Max shouting, “You’re both the proximate cause, bruh! Kausap ko my lawyer friend on the phone and he says kasalanan niyo!” Max then says, “Magtagalog ka na lang lahat tayo Pilipino! Tsaka, puwede ka naman umiwas ah bakit di ka umiwas?!”
Kuya Kim then tells Louis, “Bro, I think he has a point. I could’ve made iwas but I didn’t. What do I say?”
Louis, replies, “Dude, is he also talking to a lawyer? I think he’s referring to the doctrine of ‘Last Clear Chance’ kasi eh.”
The doctrine of “last clear chance”, in essence, states that “where both parties are negligent, but the negligent act of one is appreciably later in time than that of the other, or when it is impossible to determine whose fault or negligence should be attributed to the incident, the one who had the last clear opportunity to avoid the impending harm and failed to do so is chargeable with the consequences thereof.” In other words, it means that “an antecedent negligence of a person does not preclude the recovery of damages for supervening negligence of, or bar a defense against the liability sought by, another if the latter, who had the last fair chance, could have avoided the impending harm by the exercise of due diligence.”
What this means is that even if we assume that Basti, Max, and Kuya Kim were all negligent, if Kuya Kim could have reasonably taken steps to avoid the incident, then Kuya Kim may be held liable. Unfair? Well, remember that the incident among the three isn’t clear cut. However, to give you a straightforward example, let’s say that while crossing a street you see a car heading towards you at slow speed. Instead of running to cross to street or staying put, you stroll leisurely without regard to the incoming vehicle. You ignore the car honking and then bam! You get swiped. The doctrine of “Last Clear Chance” can be used against you because you had the last fair chance to avoid the impending harm but you didn’t take it. In fact, it could be argued that it was your negligence that caused the injury.
Obviously, there’s always an argument one can use when in a vehicular accident, including Proximate Cause and Last Clear Chance. However, don’t be a douche and use these terms when talking to someone you got into an accident with. Cooler heads prevail. As for the Ferraris and Red Bull, the stewards seem to have taken the view that it was no one’s fault and therefore, no one should be penalized. I wouldn’t be surprised if they couldn’t find who the proximate cause was.
Epilogue: After learning that he may have also been at fault and noticing that Max had been recording the entire thing on his phone, Kuya Kim calms down and says, “Bros, kanya-kanya na lang. Nag-cause na tayo ng traffic.” Surprisingly, all three agree that they will just shoulder their own expenses. Unfortunately for them, towers arrived and towed all of their cars. They got charged Php3,500 each for towing costs. Curse you towing vultures!
JD Garcia is an editor of Batas Sportiva. He lit.
 Mckee and Mckee vs. IAC, G.R. No. L-68102, 16 July 1992 and Koh et al. vs. IAC, G.R. No. L-68103, 16 July 1992.
 LBC Air Cargo vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 101683, 23 February 1995.