July 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select July 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Compensation. For legal compensation to take place, the requirements set forth in Articles 1278 and 1279 of the Civil Code, quoted below, must be present.

ARTICLE 1278. Compensation shall take place when two persons, in their own right, are creditors and debtors of each other.

ARTICLE 1279. In order that compensation may be proper, it is necessary:

(1) That each one of the obligors be bound principally, and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other;

(2) That both debts consist in a sum of money, or if the things due are consumable, they be of the same kind, and also of the same quality if the latter has been stated;

(3) That the two debts be due;

(4) That they be liquidated and demandable;

(5) That over neither of them there be any retention or controversy, commenced by third persons and communicated in due time to the debtor.

A debt is liquidated when its existence and amount are determined. It is not necessary that it be admitted by the debtor. Nor is it necessary that the credit appear in a final judgment in order that it can be considered as liquidated; it is enough that its exact amount is known. And a debt is considered liquidated, not only when it is expressed already in definite figures which do not require verification, but also when the determination of the exact amount depends only on a simple arithmetical operation.

Continue reading

June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected June 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Agency; agency by estoppel. The doctrine of estoppel is based upon the grounds of public policy, fair dealing, good faith and justice, and its purpose is to forbid one to speak against his own act, representations, or commitments to the injury of one to whom they were directed and who reasonably relied thereon. The doctrine of estoppel springs from equitable principles and the equities in the case. It is designed to aid the law in the administration of justice where without its aid injustice might result. It has been applied by this Court wherever and whenever special circumstances of a case so demand.

Based on the events and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the assailed orders, this Court rules that MEGAN is estopped from assailing both the authority of Atty. Sabig and the jurisdiction of the RTC. While it is true, as claimed by MEGAN, that Atty. Sabig said in court that he was only appearing for the hearing of Passi Sugar’s motion for intervention and not for the case itself, his subsequent acts, coupled with MEGAN’s inaction and negligence to repudiate his authority, effectively bars MEGAN from assailing the validity of the RTC proceedings under the principle of estoppel. Megan Sugar Corporation v. Regional Trial Court of Iloilo, Br. 68, Dumangas, Iloilo; New Frontier Sugar Corp., et al.,  G.R. No. 170352. June 1, 2011

Agency; doctrine of apparent authority. The Court finds that the signature of Abcede is sufficient to bind PRHC. As its construction manager, his very act of signing a letter embodying the P 36 million escalation agreement produced legal effect, even if there was a blank space for a higher officer of PHRC to indicate approval thereof. At the very least, he indicated authority to make such representation on behalf of PRHC. On direct examination, Abcede admitted that, as the construction manager, he represented PRHC in running its affairs with regard to the execution of the aforesaid projects. Abcede had signed, on behalf of PRHC, other documents that were almost identical to the questioned letter-agreement. PRHC does not question the validity of these agreements; it thereby effectively admits that this individual had actual authority to sign on its behalf with respect to these construction projects. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp. vs. Ley Const. and Dev. Corp./Ley Cons. and Dev. Corp. vs. Philippine Realty and Holding Corp., G.R. No. 165548/G.R. No. 167879. June 13, 2011

Continue reading

January 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected January 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Common carriers; standard of diligence. Under Article 1732 of the Civil Code, common carriers are persons, corporations, firms, or associations engaged in the business of carrying or transporting passenger or goods, or both by land, water or air for compensation, offering their services to the public. A common carrier is distinguished from a private carrier wherein the carriage is generally undertaken by special agreement and it does not hold itself out to carry goods for the general public.  The distinction is significant in the sense that the rights and obligations of the parties to a contract of private carriage are governed principally by their stipulations, not by the law on common carriers.

Loadmasters and Glodel, being both common carriers, are mandated from the nature of their business and for reasons of public policy, to observe the extraordinary diligence in the vigilance over the goods transported by them according to all the circumstances of such case, as required by Article 1733 of the Civil Code.  When the Court speaks of extraordinary diligence, it is that extreme measure of care and caution which persons of unusual prudence and circumspection observe for securing and preserving their own property or rights.  This exacting standard imposed on common carriers in a contract of carriage of goods is intended to tilt the scales in favor of the shipper who is at the mercy of the common carrier once the goods have been lodged for shipment. Thus, in case of loss of the goods, the common carrier is presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently. This presumption of fault or negligence, however, may be rebutted by proof that the common carrier has observed extraordinary diligence over the goods.

Continue reading

May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected May 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Attorney’s fees; quantum meruit. The principle of quantum meruit (as much as he deserves) may be a basis for determining the reasonable amount of attorney’s fees.  Quantum meruit is a device to prevent undue enrichment based on the equitable postulate that it is unjust for a person to retain benefit without paying for it. It is applicable even if there was a formal written contract for attorney’s fees as long as the agreed fee was found by the court to be unconscionable.  In fixing a reasonable compensation for the services rendered by a lawyer on the basis of quantum meruit, factors such as the time spent, and extent of services rendered; novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; importance of the subject matter; skill demanded; probability of losing other employment as a result of acceptance of the proferred case; customary charges for similar services; amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the client; certainty of compensation; character of employment; and professional standing of the lawyer, may be considered.  Indubitably entwined with a lawyer’s duty to charge only reasonable fee is the power of the Court to reduce the amount of attorney’s fees if the same is excessive and unconscionable in relation to Sec. 24, Rule 138 of the Rules.  Attorney’s fees are unconscionable if they affront one’s sense of justice, decency or unreasonableness.   The determination of the amount of reasonable attorney’s fees requires the presentation of evidence and a full-blown trial.  It would be only after due hearing and evaluation of the evidence presented by the parties that the trial court can render judgment as to the propriety of the amount to be awarded.  Hicoblo M. Catly (deceased), subtituted by his wife, Lourdes A. Catly vs. William Navarro, et al., G.R. No. 167239, May 5, 2010.

Compromise agreement. Under Article 2028 of the Civil Code, a compromise agreement is a contract whereby the parties, by making reciprocal concessions, avoid litigation or put an end to one already commenced. Compromise is a form of amicable settlement that is not only allowed, but also encouraged in civil cases. Contracting parties may establish such stipulations, clauses, terms, and conditions as they deem convenient, provided that these are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy. Heirs of Alfredo Zabala, etc. et al. vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 189602, May 6, 2010.

Damages; amount in tort interference. The rule is that the defendant found guilty of interference with contractual relations cannot be held liable for more than the amount for which the party who was inducted to break the contract can be held liable.  Respondents were therefore correctly held liable for the balance of petitioner’s commission from the sale. Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner” vs. Mortimer F. Cordero/Mortimer F. Cordero vs. Allan C. Go, doing business under the name and style of “ACG Express Liner”, et al., G.R. No. 164703/G.R. No, 164747. May 4, 2010.

Continue reading

February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected February 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Agency; principle of apparent authority; agency relationship between hospital and doctors who practice in its premises. This Court holds that PSI (the owner of the hospital) is liable to the Aganas, not under the principle of respondeat superior for lack of evidence of an employment relationship with a Dr. Ampil (who had left two pieces of gauze in the body of a patient he had operated on) but under the principle of ostensible agency for the negligence of Dr. Ampil and, pro hac vice, under the principle of corporate negligence for its failure to perform its duties as a hospital.

While in theory a hospital as a juridical entity cannot practice medicine, in reality it utilizes doctors, surgeons and medical practitioners in the conduct of its business of facilitating medical and surgical treatment. Within that reality, three legal relationships crisscross: (1) between the hospital and the doctor practicing within its premises; (2) between the hospital and the patient being treated or examined within its premises and (3) between the patient and the doctor. The exact nature of each relationship determines the basis and extent of the liability of the hospital for the negligence of the doctor.

Where an employment relationship exists, the hospital may be held vicariously liable under Article 2176 in relation to Article 2180 of the Civil Code or the principle of respondeat superior. Even when no employment relationship exists but it is shown that the hospital holds out to the patient that the doctor is its agent, the hospital may still be vicariously liable under Article 2176 in relation to Article 1431 and Article 1869 of the Civil Code or the principle of apparent authority. Moreover, regardless of its relationship with the doctor, the hospital may be held directly liable to the patient for its own negligence or failure to follow established standard of conduct to which it should conform as a corporation.

Continue reading

November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on civil law and related laws:

Civil Code

Contract;  contract of adhesion.     A contract of adhesion is defined as one in which one of the parties imposes a ready-made form of contract, which the other party may accept or reject, but which the latter cannot modify. One party prepares the stipulation in the contract, while the other party merely affixes his signature or his “adhesion” thereto, giving no room for negotiation and depriving the latter of the opportunity to bargain on equal footing. Contracts of adhesion are not invalid per se.  Contracts of adhesion, where one party imposes a ready-made form of contract on the other, are not entirely prohibited. The one who adheres to the contract is, in reality, free to reject it entirely; if he adheres, he gives his consent.  Norton Resources and Development Corporation vs. All Asia Bank Corporation, G.R. No. 162523. November 25, 2009

Contract;  freedom of contract. Petitioners allege that the Kasulatan was entered into by the parties freely and voluntarily. They maintain that there was already a meeting of the minds between the parties as regards the principal amount of the loan, the interest thereon and the property given as security for the payment of the loan, which must be complied with in good faith. Hence, they assert that the Court of Appeals should have given due respect to the provisions of the Kasulatan. They also stress that it is a settled principle that the law will not relieve a party from the effects of an unwise, foolish or disastrous contract, entered into with all the required formalities and with full awareness of what he was doing.

Petitioners’ contentions deserve scant consideration. In Abe v. Foster Wheeler Corporation, we held that the freedom of contract is not absolute. The same is understood to be subject to reasonable legislative regulation aimed at the promotion of public health, morals, safety and welfare. One such legislative regulation is found in Article 1306 of the Civil Code which allows the contracting parties to “establish such stipulations, clauses, terms and conditions as they may deem convenient, provided they are not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy.”

To reiterate, we fully agree with the Court of Appeals in holding that the compounded interest rate of 5% per month, is iniquitous and unconscionable. Being a void stipulation, it is deemed inexistent from the beginning. The debt is to be considered without the stipulation of the iniquitous and unconscionable interest rate. Accordingly, the legal interest of 12% per annum must be imposed in lieu of the excessive interest stipulated in the agreement, in line with our ruling in Ruiz v. Court of Appeals.  Sps. Isagani & Diosdada Castro vs. Angelina de Leon Tan, G.R. No. 168940, November 24, 2009.

Contract; laches. The essence of laches is the failure or neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, through due diligence, could have been done earlier, thus giving rise to a presumption that the party entitled to assert it had either abandoned or declined to assert it.

Respondent discovered in 1991 that a new owner’s copy of OCT No. 535 was issued to the Eniceo heirs. Respondent filed a criminal case against the Eniceo heirs for false testimony. When respondent learned that the Eniceo heirs were planning to sell the Antipolo property, respondent caused the annotation of an adverse claim. On 16 January 1996, when respondent learned that OCT No. 535 was cancelled and new TCTs were issued, respondent filed a civil complaint with the trial court against the Eniceo heirs and petitioner. Respondent’s actions negate petitioner’s argument that respondent is guilty of laches.  Kings Properties Corporation, Inc. vs. Canuto A. Galido, G.R. No. 170023. November 27, 2009

Continue reading

September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on civil law and related laws:

Civil Law

Common carrier;  liability. Common carriers are bound to observe extraordinary diligence over the goods they transport, according to all the circumstances of each case.

In the event of loss, destruction, or deterioration of the insured goods, common carriers are responsible, unless they can prove that such loss, destruction, or deterioration was brought about by, among others, “flood, storm, earthquake, lightning, or other natural disaster or calamity”.

In all other cases not specified under Article 1734 of the Civil Code, common carriers are presumed to have been at fault or to have acted negligently, unless they observed extraordinary diligence. Regional Container Lines (RCL) of Singapore and Shipping Agency vs. The Netherlands Insurance Co. (Philippines) Inc., G.R. No. 168151, September 4, 2009.

Common carrier;  liability.  Petitioner, through its bus driver, failed to observe extraordinary diligence, and was, therefore, negligent in transporting the passengers of the bus safely to Gapan, Nueva Ecija on January 27, 1995, since the bus bumped a tree and a house, and caused physical injuries to respondent. Article 1759 of the Civil Code explicitly states that the common carrier is liable for the death or injury to passengers through the negligence or willful acts of its employees, and that such liability does not cease upon proof that the common carrier exercised all the diligence of a good father of a family in the selection and supervision of its employees. Hence, even if petitioner was able to prove that it exercised the diligence of a good father of the family in the selection and supervision of its bus driver, it is still liable to respondent for the physical injuries he sustained due to the vehicular accident.  R Transport Corporation vs. Eduardo Pante, G.R. No. 162104, September 15, 2009.

Continue reading