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SC junks doctor’s P100-M lawsuit vs Makati hotel


MANILA, Philippines—A woman-doctor’s 17-year demand for P100 million in damages from a Makati City hotel for a recurring brain injury she allegedly suffered through the years after she hit her head inside the hotel has ended after the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed her claim for lack of merit.

The high court’s Second Division threw out Dr. Genevieve Huang’s appeal on the earlier rulings of the Court of Appeals and the Makati Regional Trial Court which both dismissed her claim for damages for lack of merit in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

“This court examined the records, including the transcripts of stenographic notes, and found no reason to disturb the factual findings of both lower courts. This court, thus, upholds their conclusiveness,” the high tribunal said in the decision penned by Justice Jose Perez.

Justices Arturo Brion, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Martin Villarama Jr. and Estela Perlas-Bernade concurred in the decision.

In August 1996, Huang filed a complaint for damages in the Makati Regional Trial Court against Dusit Thani’s owners, Philippine Hoteliers Inc. and Dusit Thani Public Co. Ltd, as well as the hotel’s insurer, First Lepanto Taisho Insurance Corp.

Court records showed that in June 1995, Huang and a friend had just finished swimming at the hotel pool and were showering when the lights were switched off, plunging the area into darkness. She said they walked carefully to the main door leading out of the pool area but found the door locked.

While looking for a house phone in the dark, Huang spotted one behind the lifeguard’s counter. She said she was walking toward it when she hit her head on a wooden folding countertop, which almost knocked her unconscious.

Huang’s friend called for assistance, and hotel staff brought Huang to the coffee shop.

After arriving home, Huang said she experienced “extraordinary dizziness” and stomach problems for two days, and had headaches for three days. She consulted a neurologist who detected bruising in her head using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and told her she had a very serious brain injury. Two other doctors she consulted came up with similar findings.

After filing the damage suit, Huang went to the United States for further medical treatment. The Mount Sinai Hospital made a similar diagnosis and prescribed her medication for severe pain and made her undergo physical therapy. Her condition, however, did not improve so she went back to the Philippines. She consulted her previous doctors who all advised her to continue her medications and undergo therapy.

In 1996, Huang said the vision in her right eye began to deteriorate and, in 1999, she began experiencing severe fleeting pains in her head, arms and legs; difficulty in concentrating and felt a warm sensation in the legs. The last doctor she consulted concluded that she had a post-traumatic or post-concussion syndrome, an indication of a permanent damage in the brain.

Self-serving testimony

The RTC, however, gave more credence to the defense of the respondents, particularly hotel staff who contradicted Huang’s version of events. The trial court found the petitioner’s testimony “self-serving, thus devoid of credibility,” noting that it was through her own neglect and carelessness that she suffered the injury.

The RTC faulted Huang for failing to present any evidence to substantiate her allegation that the lights in the hotel’s pool area were shut off at the time of the incident. The judge noted that Huang did not present her friend to corroborate her testimony. All the doctors whom Huang consulted, except the last one, also were not presented to the court.

One hotel staffer said he told Huang and her friend to take their showers soon as the pool would be closing by 7 p.m. Another said the pool area was not really dark as Huang claimed, because the lights from a nearby gym overlooking the pool were still on.

The hotel nurse and doctor also testified that Huang told them she was OK and that being a doctor, she knew her condition.

The Supreme Court also agreed with the findings of the RTC and the Court of Appeals that there was no indication that Huang’s head injury was the result of the hotel incident.

The high court noted the RTC’s findings that Huang admitted to suffering different “brain problems” since she was 18 years old and these may have been the cause of her current problems. The court also learned that Huang once fell from a horse, suffered a stroke and had a blood disorder, among other ailments.

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Tags: concussion , Dr. Genevieve Huang , Dusit Thani Hotel , Makati City , Makati Regional Trial Court , Supreme Court

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