August 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Contracts; rescission; accion pauliana. Under Article 1381 of the Civil Code, an accion pauliana is an action to rescind contracts in fraud of creditors. However, jurisprudence is clear that the following successive measures must be taken by a creditor before he may bring an action for rescission of an allegedly fraudulent contract: (1) exhaust the properties of the debtor through levying by attachment and execution upon all the property of the debtor, except such as are exempt by law from execution; (2) exercise all the rights and actions of the debtor, save those personal to him (accion subrogatoria); and (3) seek rescission of the contracts executed by the debtor in fraud of their rights (accion pauliana). It is thus apparent that an action to rescind, or an accion pauliana, must be of last resort, availed of only after the creditor has exhausted all the properties of the debtor not exempt from execution or after all other legal remedies have been exhausted and have been proven futile.

It does not appear that Metrobank sought other properties of SSC other than the subject lots alleged to have been transferred in fraud of creditors. Neither is there any showing that Metrobank subrogated itself in SSC’s transmissible rights and actions. Without availing of the first and second remedies, Metrobank simply undertook the third measure and filed an action for annulment of the chattel mortgages. This cannot be done. Article 1383 of the New Civil Code is very explicit that the right or remedy of the creditor to impugn the acts which the debtor may have done to defraud them is subsidiary in nature. It can only be availed of in the absence of any other legal remedy to obtain reparation for the injury. This fact is not present in this case. No evidence was presented nor even an allegation was offered to show that Metrobank had availed of the abovementioned remedies before it tried to question the validity of the contracts of chattel mortgage between IEB and SSC. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, substituted by Meridian Corporation vs. International Exchange Bank/Chuayuco Steel Manufacturing vs. International Exchange Bank; G.R. No. 176008/G.R. No. 176131, August 10, 2011.

Co-ownership. Article 484 of the Civil Code which defines co-ownership, states:

Art. 484. There is co-ownership whenever the ownership of an undivided thing or right belongs to different persons. . .

In the present case, petitioners insist that their predecessor-in-interest Lun co-owned the Gubat and Barcelona properties with his brother Fieng. To prove co-ownership over the Gubat property, petitioners presented: (1) tax declarations from 1929 to 1983 under the name of Fieng but paid by Lun; (2) the renewal certificate from Malayan Insurance Company Inc.; (3) the insurance contract; and (4) the statements of account from Supreme Insurance Underwriters which named Lun as administrator of the property. Likewise, to prove their right over the Barcelona property as legal heirs under intestate succession, petitioners presented a Deed of Sale dated 24 August 1923 between Chaco, as buyer, and Gabriel Gredona and Engracia Legata, as sellers, involving a price consideration of P1,200.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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