The action in civil liability is primarily intended to repair a damage, and is built mainly in the Dominican Civil Code articles 1382 and following, which is complemented greatly by the case law rules issued thereon.
For its part, case law has determined three common requirements to all levels of responsibility within civil liability, and these are:
1. The wrongful act;
2. The damage; and
3. The relationship of cause and effect between the two.
The wrongful act is defined by our Supreme Court as “an error of conduct, which would not have been committed by a normal person on the same external conditions; it is also defined as an act contrary to law (…) “1, we can conclude that it is a breach of a pre-existing obligation contrary to the right of another, which can result from a contract or the law itself. 2
Damage, on the other hand, is clearly set out in Articles 1382 and 1383 reproduced above, and speaks of the harm suffered and injury caused, so there is no discussion on the fact that this is an essential element to bring an action in civil liability, as such action would not have legal interest mainly because civil liability actions normally seek compensation for damage. The case law in their efforts to interpret such legal provisions has established the following requirements for the “damage” which are: 1) must be true and current 3; 2) the injury must not have been repaired, and; 3) the injury must be personal and direct 4.
As for the third requirement, i.e. the need for a causal link between the wrongful act and the damage, it means that the damage must necessarily result from the fault 5 .
Having already defined the elements of civil liability, we can refer particularly to the civil liability that the Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) has established regarding commercial premises and the parking areas that they offer, where it is common to see signs that say “we are not responsible for theft or damages to your vehicle in the parking lot”. However, the SCJ has recently spoken regarding this particular matter through decision No. 124, dated March 13, 2013, stating that “such a warning does not exempt from responsibility towards customers owners of vehicles parked in the areas under their supervision, (…) because it is a unilateral arrangement, which has not been recognized by service users, and that somehow can be imposed on them to their detriment.” 6
This responsibility of safety and security falls on business premises offering this parking service, it is an obligation of result, and they can only be released from such liability if they can prove the existence of a cause beyond their control that has prevented them from fulfilling this obligation, since it has been clearly established by the SCJ in the above mentioned judgment that “all who benefit from an activity should bear the risk that such activity may cause or lead.”
In conclusion, we can see how unilateral provisions that may harm the users of this service are rejected, as it means that users have not agreed to such provisions, so they cannot be imposed to their detriment. Additionally, commercial establishments assume a contractual obligation when offering parking facilities for their customers’ vehicles, which means they assume their civil liability in the matter.