Macario Tamargo, Celso Tamargo, and Aurelia Tamargo, petitioners, vs. Court of Appeals, Hon. Judge Ariston L. Rubio of RTC Branch 20, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Victor Bundoc, and Clara Bundoc, Repsondents.
Facts: Adelberto Bundoc, 10 years old, shot Jennifer Tamargo with an air rifle causing injuries which resulted in her death. A civil complaint for damages was filed by petitioner Macario Tamargo, Jennifer's adopting parent, and petitioner spouses Celso and Aurelia Tamargo, Jennifer's natural parents against respondent spouses Victor and Clara Bundoc, Adelberto's natural parents with whom he was living at the time of the tragic incident. In addition to this case for damages, homicide through reckless imprudence was filed against Adelberto Bundoc. Adelberto, however, was acquitted and exempted from criminal liability on the ground that he had acted without discernment.
Prior to the incident, the spouses Sabas and Felisa Rapisura had filed a petition to adopt the minor Adelberto Bundoc which was grunted on after Adelberto had shot and killed Jennifer.
Respondent, spouses Bundoc, reciting the result of the foregoing petition for adoption, claimed that not they, but rather the adopting parents, namely the spouses Rapisura, were indispensable parties to the action since parental authority had shifted to the adopting parents from the moment the successful petition for adoption was filed. Petitioners contended that since Adelberto Bundoc was then actually living with his natural parents, parental authority had not ceased nor been relinquished by the mere filing and granting of a petition for adoption.
Issue: Whether or not the effects of adoption, insofar as parental authority is concerned may be given retroactive effect so as to make the adopting parents the indispensable parties in a damage case filed against their adopted child, for acts committed by the latter, when actual custody was yet lodged with the biological parents.
Ruling: Parental authority is not properly regarded as having been retroactively transferred to and vested in the adopting parents, the Rapisura spouses, at the time the air rifle shooting happened. It is not to be considered that retroactive effect may be given to the decree of adoption so as to impose a liability upon the adopting parents accruing at a time when adopting parents had no actual or physically custody over the adopted child. Retroactive effect may perhaps be given to the granting of the petition for adoption where such is essential to permit the accrual of some benefit or advantage in favor of the adopted child. In the instant case, however, to hold that parental authority had been retroactively lodged in the Rapisura spouses so as to burden them with liability for a tortious act that they could not have foreseen and which they could not have prevented since they were at the time in the United States and had no physical custody over the child Adelberto would be unfair and unconscionable. Such a result, moreover, would be inconsistent with the philosophical and policy basis underlying the doctrine of vicarious liability. Put a little differently, no presumption of parental dereliction on the part of the adopting parents, the Rapisura spouses, could have arisen since Adelberto was not in fact subject to their control at the time the tort was committed. Thus, herein respondent, spouses Bundoc, Adelberto's natural parents, were indispensable parties to the suit for damage.