April 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are select April 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:

Civil Code

Compensation/set-off; requisites. The applicable provisions of law are Articles 1278, 1279 and 1290 of the Civil Code of the Philippines:

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

Art. 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.

Art. 1290. When all the requisites mentioned in Article 1279 are present, compensation takes effect by operation of law, and extinguishes both debts to the concurrent amount, even though the creditors and debtors are not aware of the compensation.

Based on the foregoing, in order for compensation to be valid, the five requisites mentioned in the above-quoted Article 1279 should be present, as in the case at bench. Insular Investment and Trust Corporation vs. Capital One Equities Corp. and Planters Development Bank; G.R. No. 183308, April 25, 2012

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Agency. The sale of the DMCI shares made by EIB is null and void for lack of authority to do so, for petitioners never gave their consent or permission to the sale. Moreover, Article 1881 of the Civil Code provides that “the agent must act within the scope of his authority.” Pursuant to the authority given by the principal, the agent is granted the right “to affect the legal relations of his principal by the performance of acts effectuated in accordance with the principal’s manifestation of consent.”  In the case at bar, the scope of authority of EIB as agent of petitioners is “to retain, apply, sell or dispose of all or any of the client’s [petitioners’] property,” if all or any indebtedness or other obligations of petitioners to EIB are not discharged in full by petitioners “when due or on demand in or towards the payment and discharge of such obligation or liability.” The right to sell or dispose of the properties of petitioners by EIB is unequivocally confined to payment of the obligations and liabilities of petitioners to EIB and none other. Thus, when EIB sold the DMCI shares to buy back the KKP shares, it paid the proceeds to the vendees of said shares, the act of which is clearly an obligation to a third party and, hence, is beyond the ambit of its authority as agent. Such act is surely illegal and does not bind petitioners as principals of EIB. Pacific Rehouse Corporation, et al. vs. EIB Securities, Inc.;G.R. No. 184036, October 13, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. It is settled that the award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the general rule; counsel’s fees are not awarded every time a party prevails in a suit because of the policy that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate. Attorney’s fees, as part of damages, are not necessarily equated to the amount paid by a litigant to a lawyer. In the ordinary sense, attorney’s fees represent the reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by his client for the legal services he has rendered to the latter; while in its extraordinary concept, they may be awarded by the court as indemnity for damages to be paid by the losing party to the prevailing party. Attorney’s fees as part of damages are awarded only in the instances specified in Article 2208 of the Civil Code. As such, it is necessary for the court to make findings of fact and law that would bring the case within the ambit of these enumerated instances to justify the grant of such award, and in all cases it must be reasonable. Filomena R. Benedicto vs. Antonio Villaflores; G.R. No. 185020. October 6, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. We have stressed that the award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the rule, as they are not always awarded every time a party prevails in a suit because of the policy that no premium should be placed on the right to litigate.  Attorney’s fees as part of damages is awarded only in the instances specified in Article 2208 of the Civil Code. Financial Building Corporation vs. Rudlin International Corporation, et al./Rudlin International Corporation, et al.  vs. Financial Building Corporation; G.R. No. 164186/G.R. No. 164347. October 4, 2010.

Attorney’s fees. An award of attorney’s fees is the exception rather than the rule.  The right to litigate is so precious that a penalty should not be charged on those who may exercise it erroneously.  It is not given merely because the defendant prevails and the action is later declared to be unfounded unless there was a deliberate intent to cause prejudice to the other party. Spouses Ramy and Zenaida Pudadera vs. Ireneo Magallanes and the late Daisy Teresa cortel Magallanes, substituted by her children, Nelly M. Marquez, et al.;G.R. No. 170073, October 18, 2010.

Compensation; partial set-off. Under the circumstances, fairness and reason dictate that we simply order the set-off of the petitioners’ contractual liabilities totaling P575,922.13 against the repair cost for the defective gutter, pegged at P717,524.00, leaving the amount of P141,601.87 still due from the respondent. Support in law for this ruling for partial legal compensation proceeds from Articles 1278, 1279, 1281, and 1283 of the Civil Code. In short, both parties are creditors and debtors of each other, although in different amounts that are already due and demandable. Spouses Victoriano chung and Debbie Chung vs. Ulanday Construction, Inc.;G.R. No. 156038, October 11, 2010.

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June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Compensation. The Civil Code provides that compensation shall take place when two persons, in their own right, are creditors and debtors of each other. In order for compensation to be proper, it is necessary that: (i) each one of the obligors is bound principally and that he be at the same time a principal creditor of the other; (ii) 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; (iii) the two debts are due: (iv) the debts are liquidated and demandable; and (v) over neither of them be any retention or controversy, commenced by third parties and communicated in due time to the debtor.

In this case, petitioners failed to properly discharge their burden to show that the debts are liquidated and demandable. Consequently, legal compensation is inapplicable.

A claim is liquidated when the amount and time of payment is fixed. If acknowledged by the debtor, although not in writing, the claim must be treated as liquidated. When the defendant, who has an unliquidated claim, sets it up by way of counterclaim, and a judgment is rendered liquidating such claim, it can be compensated against the plaintiff’s claim from the moment it is liquidated by judgment. Selwyn F. Lao, et al. vs. Special Plans, Inc., G.R. No. 164791, June 29, 2010 .

Contracts; Consideration; Adequacy of Price. Without directly saying so, the trial court held that the petitioners cannot sue upon the oral sale since in its own words: “[petitioners] have not paid in full Armando Gabriel, Sr. or his estate, so that the sale transaction between Armando Gabriel Sr. and [petitioners] [has] no adequate consideration.”

The trial court’s posture is patently flawed. For starters, they equated incomplete payment of the purchase price with inadequacy of price or what passes as lesion, when both are different civil law concepts with differing legal consequences, the first being a ground to rescind an otherwise valid and enforceable contract. Perceived inadequacy of price, on the other hand, is not a sufficient ground for setting aside a sale freely entered into, save perhaps when the inadequacy is shocking to the conscience. Anthony Orduña, et al. vs. Eduardo J. Fuentebella, et al., G.R. No. 176841, June 29, 2010.

Contracts; Autonomy of Parties. Unless the terms of a contract are against the law, morals, good customs, and public policy, such contract is law between the parties and its terms bind them. In Felsan Realty & Development Corporation v. Commonwealth of Australia, the Court regarded as valid and binding a provision in the lease contract that allowed the lessee to pre-terminate the same when fire damaged the leased building, rendering it uninhabitable or unsuitable for living. In this case, paragraph VIII of the lease contract between DBS and the Martins permitted rescission by either party should the leased property become untenantable because of natural causes. The Court similarly found the following provision enforeceable and binding: `In case of damage to the leased premises or any portion thereof by reason of fault or negligence attributable to the LESSEE, its agents, employees, customers, or guests, the LESSEE shall be responsible for undertaking such repair or reconstruction. In case of damage due to fire, earthquake, lightning, typhoon, flood, or other natural causes, without fault or negligence attributable to the LESSEE, its agents, employees, customers or guests, the LESSOR shall be responsible for undertaking such repair or reconstruction. In the latter case, if the leased premises become untenantable, either party may demand for the rescission of this contract and in such case, the deposit referred to in paragraph III shall be returned to the LESSEE immediately.’ Felicidad T. Martin, et al. vs. DBS Bank Philippines, Inc., et al. G.R. No. 174632 & G.R. No. 174804, June 16, 2010.

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March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

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

Civil Code

Conjugal partnership; effects of legal separation; forfeiture of share in profits. Among the effects of the decree of legal separation is that the conjugal partnership is dissolved and liquidated and the offending spouse would have no right to any share of the net profits earned by the conjugal partnership. Thus it is only the offending spouse’s share in the net profits, and not the share in the property, which is forfeited. Article 102(4) of the Family Code provides that “[f]or purposes of computing the net profits subject to forfeiture in accordance with Article 43, No. (2) and 63, No. (2), the said profits shall be the increase in value between the market value of the community property at the time of the celebration of the marriage and the market value at the time of its dissolution.” Mario Siochi vs. Alfredo Gozon, et al./Inter-Dimensional Realty, Inc. Vs. Mario Siochi, et al., G.R. No. 169900/G.R. No. 169977, March 18, 2010

Conjugal partnership; presumption of conjugal nature; need for marital consent. The Civil Code of the Philippines, the law in force at the time of the celebration of the marriage between Martha and Manuel in 1957, provides all property of the marriage is presumed to belong to the conjugal partnership, unless it be proved that it pertains exclusively to the husband or to the wife. This includes property which is acquired by onerous title during the marriage at the expense of the common fund, whether the acquisition be for the partnership, or for only one of the spouses. The court is not persuaded by Titan’s arguments that the property was Martha’s exclusive property because Manuel failed to present before the RTC any proof of his income in 1970, hence he could not have had the financial capacity to contribute to the purchase of the property in 1970; and that Manuel admitted that it was Martha who concluded the original purchase of the property.  In consonance with its ruling in Spouses Castro v. Miat, Manuel was not required to prove that the property was acquired with funds of the partnership. Rather, the presumption applies even when the manner in which the property was acquired does not appear.  Here, we find that Titan failed to overturn the presumption that the property, purchased during the spouses’ marriage, was part of the conjugal partnership. Since the property was undoubtedly part of the conjugal partnership, the sale to Titan required the consent of both spouses.  Article 165 of the Civil Code expressly provides that “the husband is the administrator of the conjugal partnership”.  Likewise, Article 172 of the Civil Code ordains that “(t)he wife cannot bind the conjugal partnership without the husband’s consent, except in cases provided by law”. Titan Construction Corporation Vs. Manuel A. David, Sr. and Martha S. David, G.R. No. 169548, March 15, 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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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.

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May 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Civil Law

Here are selected May 2009 decisions of the Supreme Court on civil law.

Contracts;  force majeure.  The matter of fortuitous events is governed by Art. 1174 of the Civil Code which provides that except in cases expressly specified by the law, or when it is otherwise declared by stipulation, or when the nature of the obligation requires assumption of risk, no person shall be responsible for those events which could not be foreseen, or which though foreseen, were inevitable. The elements of a fortuitous event are: (a) the cause of the unforeseen and unexpected occurrence, must have been independent of human will; (b) the event that constituted the caso fortuito must have been impossible to foresee or, if foreseeable, impossible to avoid; (c) the occurrence must have been such as to render it impossible for the debtors to fulfill their obligation in a normal manner, and; (d) the obligor must have been free from any participation in the aggravation of the resulting injury to the creditor.

A fortuitous event may either be an act of God, or natural occurrences such as floods or typhoons, or an act of man such as riots, strikes or wars. However, when the loss is found to be partly the result of a person’s participation–whether by active intervention, neglect or failure to act—the whole occurrence is humanized and removed from the rules applicable to a fortuitous event. Asset Privitization Trust vs. T.J. EnterprisesG.R. No. 167195,  May 8, 2009.

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