Jurisprudence is rich with cases tackling Quasi-Delicts (Art. 2176, Civil Code) in relation to the Rules of Court. The salient topics that the author was able to jot down on his notes are as follows:
In Casupanan vs. Laroya, the defendant filed a criminal case for reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property, while the plaintiffs filed a civil action for damages based on Art. 2176 of the Civil Code. The Supreme Court held that although the two actions arose from the same act or omission, they stem from different causes of action, which are culpa criminal and culpa aquiliana respectively. Hence, there is no forum shopping because the law and the rules expressly allow the filing of a separate civil action which can proceed independently of the criminal action. Sec. 1, par. 6, Rule 111 of the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure is on point:
SECTION 1. Institution of criminal and civil actions. (a) x x x.
No counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party complaint may be filed by the accused in the criminal case, but any cause of action which could have been the subject thereof may be litigated in a separate civil action. (Emphasis supplied)
The same case tackled the differences between the 1985 Rules and the 2000 Rules. This is very important. Even the author was a bit confused when he read the older cases, as the mechanics were very different back then.
In the 1985 Rules, Art. 19-32 (intentional torts), Art. 2176, and civil liability ex delicto were deemed instituted with the filing of criminal action. The provisions of the law as to the waiver, reservation, and prior institution of civil action apply to those three.
In the 2000 Rules, only the civil liability ex delicto is deemed instituted and is affected by the provisions on waiver, reservation, and prior institution of civil action. For all the other actions based on Art. 2176 and Art. 19-32, they are now independent civil actions which are not affected by the provisions on reservation and waiver. Otherwise stated, there is no need to make a reservation for such civil action.
Do note that as per the current rules, a separate civil action must be filed before the prosecution presents its evidence. Waiver of civil action may be filed anytime. And in case of prior institution of civil action, the subsequent filing of criminal action will suspend the civil action.
Take note of Sec. 2, Rule 111, of the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure as well:
Section 2. When separate civil action is suspended. — After the criminal action has been commenced, the separate civil action arising therefrom cannot be instituted until final judgment has been entered in the criminal action.
If the criminal action is filed after the said civil action has already been instituted, the latter shall be suspended in whatever stage it may be found before judgment on the merits. The suspension shall last until final judgment is rendered in the criminal action. Nevertheless, before judgment on the merits is rendered in the civil action, the same may, upon motion of the offended party, be consolidated with the criminal action in the court trying the criminal action. In case of consolidation, the evidence already adduced in the civil action shall be deemed automatically reproduced in the criminal action without prejudice to the right of the prosecution to cross-examine the witnesses presented by the offended party in the criminal case and of the parties to present additional evidence. The consolidated criminal and civil actions shall be tried and decided jointly.
During the pendency of the criminal action, the running of the period of prescription of the civil action which cannot be instituted separately or whose proceeding has been suspended shall be tolled. (n)
The extinction of the penal action does not carry with it extinction of the civil action. However, the civil action based on delict shall be deemed extinguished if there is a finding in a final judgment in the criminal action that the act or omission from which the civil liability may arise did not exist.
Such consolidation of civil and criminal action applies only if the civil case is instituted prior to the criminal case. Its main effect is that the evidence is automatically duplicated, although such filing must be done before the case is finished. This provision will not apply if you reserve the right to institute a separate civil action.
Finally, the conclusion of the Supreme Court in the same case is as follows:
Under Section 1 of the present Rule 111, the independent civil action in Articles 32, 33, 34 and 2176 of the Civil Code is not deemed instituted with the criminal action but may be filed separately by the offended party even without reservation. The commencement of the criminal action does not suspend the prosecution of the independent civil action under these articles of the Civil Code. The suspension in Section 2 of the present Rule 111 refers only to the civil action arising from the crime, if such civil action is reserved or filed before the commencement of the criminal action.
Thus, the offended party can file two separate suits for the same act or omission. The first a criminal case where the civil action to recover civil liability ex-delicto is deemed instituted, and the other a civil case for quasi-delict – without violating the rule on non-forum shopping. The two cases can proceed simultaneously and independently of each other. The commencement or prosecution of the criminal action will not suspend the civil action for quasi-delict. The only limitation is that the offended party cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant. In most cases, the offended party will have no reason to file a second civil action since he cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the accused. In some instances, the accused may be insolvent, necessitating the filing of another case against his employer or guardians.
Similarly, the accused can file a civil action for quasi-delict for the same act or omission he is accused of in the criminal case. This is expressly allowed in paragraph 6, Section 1 of the present Rule 111 which states that the counterclaim of the accused may be litigated in a separate civil action. This is only fair for two reasons. First, the accused is prohibited from setting up any counterclaim in the civil aspect that is deemed instituted in the criminal case. The accused is therefore forced to litigate separately his counterclaim against the offended party. If the accused does not file a separate civil action for quasi-delict, the prescriptive period may set in since the period continues to run until the civil action for quasi-delict is filed.
Second, the accused, who is presumed innocent, has a right to invoke Article 2177 of the Civil Code, in the same way that the offended party can avail of this remedy which is independent of the criminal action. To disallow the accused from filing a separate civil action for quasi-delict, while refusing to recognize his counterclaim in the criminal case, is to deny him due process of law, access to the courts, and equal protection of the law.
Thus, the civil action based on quasi-delict filed separately by Casupanan and Capitulo is proper. The order of dismissal by the MCTC of Civil Case No. 2089 on the ground of forum-shopping is erroneous.
This, in effect, made the earlier SC decisions inapplicable anymore (e.g. People vs. Amistad, People vs. Navoa, People vs. Badeo, and People vs. Bayotas). Bear that in mind, as these can confuse or mislead the reader.
Lastly, the author would like to include the following cases related to the subject matter at hand:
In Virata vs. Ochoa:
The aggrieved party may file criminal action or civil damages. Although it is important to note that you can only recover once, whichever is higher.
Acquittal in a criminal case is not a bar for recovery of civil damages arising out of other sources.
There is no identity of causes of action between a crime and a quasi-delict.
In Occena vs. Icamina, the Supreme Court held that:
The judgment of conviction in a criminal case does not bar appealing the civil aspect of the case.
Two kinds of appeal may be had in conviction: a) accused may appeal the criminal and civil aspect of the case; or, b) complainant may appeal only the civil aspect of the case if award of damages is refused or unsatisfactory.
Active participation in criminal action does not equate to waiver of right to appeal.
In Jarantilla vs. CA:
Failure of the trial court to make any pronouncement as to civil liability amounts to reservation. Hence, party may still appeal for the civil aspect of the case.
In Park vs. Choi:
In criminal cases, you can file a demurrer to evidence after the prosecution rested its case. If the court grants the same, the court may enter a partial judgement, dismissing the criminal case on one hand, and remanding the civil aspect to the lower courts on the other.
In Salazar vs. People, the court held the following:
The acquittal of the accused does not prevent a judgment against him on the civil aspect of the case where (a) the acquittal is based on reasonable doubt as only preponderance of evidence is required; (b) where the court declared that the liability of the accused is only civil; (c) where the civil liability of the accused does not arise from or is not based upon the crime of which the accused was acquitted. Moreover, the civil action based on the delict is extinguished if there is a finding in the final judgment in the criminal action that the act or omission from which the civil liability may arise did not exist or where the accused did not commit the acts or omission imputed to him.
If the accused is acquitted on reasonable doubt but the court renders judgment on the civil aspect of the criminal case, the prosecution cannot appeal from the judgment of acquittal as it would place the accused in double jeopardy. However, the aggrieved party, the offended party or the accused or both may appeal from the judgment on the civil aspect of the case within the period therefor.
After the prosecution has rested its case, the accused has the option either to (a) file a demurrer to evidence with or without leave of court under Section 23, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, or to (b) adduce his evidence unless he waives the same.
Disclaimer: The author merely published his notes from the classroom discussions and recitations. He does not guarantee the full accuracy of the data. If you see any wrong information, please tell and the author will be more than happy to correct it. After all, “false knowledge is more dangerous that outright ignorance”.