Case Brief: Solidum vs. People

G.R. No. 192123 March 10, 2014

DR. FERNANDO P. SOLIDUM, Petitioner,

vs.

PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondent.

Facts:

Gerald Albert Gercayo (Gerald) was born on June 2, 1992 with an imperforate anus. Two days after his birth, Gerald underwent colostomy, a surgical procedure to bring one end of the large intestine out through the abdominal wall, enabling him to excrete through a colostomy bag attached to the side of his body.

On May 17, 1995, Gerald, then three years old, was admitted at the Ospital ng Maynila for a pull-through operation. Dr. Leandro Resurreccion headed the surgical team, and was assisted by Dr. Joselito Luceño, Dr. Donatella Valeña and Dr. Joseph Tibio. The anesthesiologists included Dr. Marichu Abella, Dr. Arnel Razon and petitioner Dr. Fernando Solidum (Dr. Solidum). During the operation, Gerald experienced bradycardia, and went into a coma. His coma lasted for two weeks, but he regained consciousness only after a month. He could no longer see, hear or move.

Agitated by her son’s helpless and unexpected condition, Ma. Luz Gercayo (Luz) lodged a complaint for reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries with the City Prosecutor’s Office of Manila against the attending physicians.

On July 19, 2004, the RTC and CA rendered its judgment finding Dr. Solidum guilty beyond reasonable doubt of reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries and ordering her to indemnify, jointly and severally with the Ospital ng Maynila, private complainant Luz Gercayo, for damages.

Issue:

Whether Ospital ng Maynila shall be held jointly and severally liable with Dr. Solidum with regard to indemnification for damages

Ruling:

No. The judgment was flawed in logic and in law.

In criminal prosecutions, the civil action for the recovery of civil liability that is deemed instituted with the criminal action refers only to that arising from the offense charged. It is puzzling, therefore, how the RTC and the CA could have adjudged Ospital ng Maynila jointly and severally liable with Dr. Solidum for the damages despite the obvious fact that Ospital ng Maynila, being an artificial entity, had not been charged along with Dr. Solidum. The judgment rendered against Ospital ng Maynila void was the product of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction.

The Ospital ng Maynila was not at all a party in the proceedings. Hence, its fundamental right to be heard was not respected from the outset. The R TC and the CA should have been alert to this fundamental defect. Verily, no person can be prejudiced by a ruling rendered in an action or proceeding in which he was not made a party. Such a rule would enforce the constitutional guarantee of due process of law.

Moreover, Ospital ng Maynila could be held civilly liable only when subsidiary liability would be properly enforceable pursuant to Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code. But the subsidiary liability seems far-fetched here. The conditions for subsidiary liability to attach to Ospital ng Maynila should first be complied with. Firstly, pursuant to Article 103 of the Revised Penal Code, Ospital ng Maynila must be shown to be a corporation “engaged in any kind of industry.” The term industry means any department or branch of art, occupation or business, especially one that employs labor and capital, and is engaged in industry. However, Ospital ng Maynila, being a public hospital, was not engaged in industry conducted for profit but purely in charitable and humanitarian work. Secondly, assuming that Ospital ng Maynila was engaged in industry for profit, Dr. Solidum must be shown to be an employee of Ospital ng Maynila acting in the discharge of his duties during the operation on Gerald. Yet, he definitely was not such employee but a consultant of the hospital. And, thirdly, assuming that civil liability was adjudged against Dr. Solidum as an employee (which did not happen here), the execution against him was unsatisfied due to him being insolvent.

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Case Brief: Baez v Valdevilla & Oro Marketing

Q: Whether or not the Labor Arbiter can award damages arising from tortious acts.

A: I qualify.  Generally, the Labor Arbiter cannot award damages arising from tortious acts. It is the RTC which has jurisdiction thereto. This is also true when the employer-employee relationship is merely incidental, and the cause of action comes from a different source of obligation.
However, if the damages arise directly from employer-employee relationship, Labor Arbiter can award damages arising therefrom.

GR No. 128024  May 9, 2000

Baez

v.

Valdevilla and Oro Marketing, Inc

Facts:
Baez was the sales operations manager of Oro Marketing Inc. In 1993, Oro Marketing indefinitely suspended Baez, prompting Baez to file for illegal dismissal. Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of Baez. Since Oro Marketing failed to timely file the appeal, both NLRC and SC dismissed the same.

Oro Marketing filed a complaint for damages before the RTC for loss of profit, cost of supplies, litigation expenses, and attorney’s fees. It alleged that due to Baez’ modus operandi, its sales decreased and reduced its profits.

Baez filed a motion to dismiss, interposing that the action for damages, having arisen from employer-employee relationship, was squarely under the exclusive original jurisdiction of NLRC under Art. 217(a) par. 4 of Labor Code, and is barred by reason of the final judgment in labor case. As such, he accused Oro Marketing of splitting causes of action, and that the latter should have included the claim in its counterclaim before the Labor Arbiter.

The respondent RTC Judge Valdevilla ruled that it had jurisdiction over the subject matter, since the complaint did not ask for any relief under the Labor Code, but rather to recover damages as redress for Baez’s nefarious activities, causing damage and prejudice to Oro Marketing. Since this there was a breach of contractual obligation, which is within the realm of civil law, the jurisdiction belongs to the regular courts.

Issue:
Whether or not RTC has jurisdiction over the claim for damages filed by Oro Marketing against Baez.
Held:
No. RTC had no jurisdiction over Oro Marketing’s complaint for damages.

RTC was incorrect in saying that the resolution of the issues presented by the complaint did not entail application of the Labor Code or other labor laws; the dispute was intrinsically civil. Article 217(a) of the Labor Code, as amended, clearly bestows upon the Labor Arbiter original and exclusive jurisdiction over claims for damages arising from employer-employee relations —in other words, the Labor Arbiter has jurisdiction to award not only the reliefs provided by labor laws, but also damages governed by the Civil Code.

It is clear that under Art. 217(a) par. 4 of Labor Code, the Labor Arbiter and NLRC have original and exclusive jurisdiction claims for actual, moral, exemplary and other forms of damages arising from the employer-employee relations. This provision is the result of the amendment by Section 9 of Republic Act (“R.A.”) No. 6715, which took effect on March 21, 1989, and which put to rest the earlier confusion as to who between Labor Arbiters and regular courts had jurisdiction over claims for damages as between employers and employees.

It will be recalled that years prior to R.A. 6715, jurisdiction over all money claims of workers, including claims for damages, was originally lodged with the Labor Arbiters and the NLRC by Article 217 of the Labor Code. On May 1, 1979, however, Presidential Decree (“P.D.”) No. 1367 amended said Article 217 to the effect that “Regional Directors shall not indorse and Labor Arbiters shall not entertain claims for moral or other forms of damages.” This limitation in jurisdiction, however, lasted only briefly since on May 1, 1980, P.D. No. 1691 nullified P.D. No. 1367 and restored Article 217 of the Labor Code almost to its original form. Presently, and as amended by R.A. 6715, the jurisdiction of Labor Arbiters and the NLRC in Article 217 is comprehensive enough to include claims for all forms of damages “arising from the employer-employee relations”.

By the designating clause “arising from the employer-employee relations”, Art. 217 should also apply with equal force to the claim of an employer for actual damages against its dismissed employee, where the basis for the claim arises from or is necessarily connected with the fact of termination, and should be entered as a counterclaim in the illegal dismissal case.

In this case, Oro Marketing’s claim against Baez for actual damages arose from a prior employer-employee relationship. In the first place, Oro Marketing’s would not have taken issue with Baez’s “doing business of his own” had the latter not been concurrently its employee. Thus, the damages alleged in the complaint were: first, those amounting to lost profits and earnings due to Baez’s abandonment or neglect of his duties as sales manager, having been otherwise preoccupied by his unauthorized installment sale scheme; and second, those equivalent to the value of Oro Marketing’s property and supplies which Baez used in conducting his “business”.

Second, contrary to Oro Marketing’s allegations, no business losses may be attributed to Baez as in fact, it was by reason of Baez’s sales operations that the sales reached its highest record level, and that the installment scheme was in fact with the knowledge of the management of Oro Marketing. In other words, the issue of actual damages has been settled in the labor case, which is now final and executory.

This is, of course, to distinguish from cases of actions for damages where the employer-employee relationship is merely incidental and the cause of action proceeds from a different source of obligation. Thus, the jurisdiction of regular courts was upheld where the damages, claimed for were based on tort, malicious prosecution, or breach of contract, as when the claimant seeks to recover a debt from a former employee or seeks liquidated damages in enforcement of a prior employment contract.

Case Brief: Manchester v CA

To put a stop to this irregularity, henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.

G.R. No. 75919 May 7, 1987
MANCHESTER DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, ET AL., petitioners,
vs.
COURT OF APPEALS, CITY LAND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, STEPHEN ROXAS, ANDREW LUISON, GRACE LUISON and JOSE DE MAISIP, respondents.

Facts:
Manchester contended that the filing fee must be assessed on the basis of the amended complaint, citing the case of Magaspi v. Ramolete. The environmental facts of Magaspi as compared to the current Manchester case were as follows:

Magaspi v. Ramolete

Manchester v. CA

Action for recovery of ownership and possession of parcel of land with damages. Action for torts and damages and specific performance, with prayer for temporary restraining order
Seeks not only the annulment of title of defendant to property, the declaration of ownership and delivery of possession to Magaspi;

But also for the payment of A/M/E damages and attorney’s fees arising therefrom with the amounts specified therein

Prayer is for the issuance of writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction during the pendency of action against defendant’s announced forfeiture of P3M paid by Manchester for the property in question;

To attach such property of defendant that may be sufficient to satisfy any judgment that may be rendered;

And after hearing, order defendants to execute contract of purchase and sale of property and annul defendant’s illegal forfeiture of Manchester’s money;

Ordering them to pay A/C/E damages and attorney’s fees;

And declaring the tender of payment of purchase price of Manchester valid and producing the effect of payment and to make injunction permanent.;

The amount of damages sought is not specified in the prayer, although the body of the complaint alleges the total amount of P78M as damages.

There was an honest difference of opinion as to nature of action. The complaint was considered an action for recovery of ownership and possession of parcel of land. Damages were treated as merely to the main cause of action. Thus, docket fee of P60 and P10 for sherrif’s fee were paid. No such honest difference of opinion.   As per complaint, it is both an action for damages and specific performance;

Docket fee paid upon filing of complaint P410 because the action is merely one for specific performance where the amount involved is not capable of pecuniary estimation is wrong, because the body of complaint totaling P78M should be the basis of assessment of filing fee.

RTC ordered Magaspi to pay P3k as filing fee covering the damages alleged in the original complaint, as it did not consider the damages to be merely an or incidental to the action for recovery of ownership and possession of real property;

The amended complaint was filed by Magaspi with leave of court to include the State as defendant and reducing the amount of damages and attorney’s fees to P100k. Such amendment was admitted.

When the under-reassessment of the filing fee in Manchester was brought to the attention of SC together with other similar cases, an investigation was immediately ordered by the Court.

Manchester, thru another counsel and with leave of court, filed an amended complaint for the inclusion of Philips Wire and Cable Corporation as co-plaintiff, and by emanating any mention of the amount of damages in the body of complaint.

RTC directed Manchester to rectify the amended complaint by stating the amounts which they are asking for. It was only then that Manchester specified the amount of damages in the body of complaint in the reduced amount of P10M.

Still, no amount of damages were specified in the prayer. Such amendment was admitted.

Action was not only one for recovery of ownership but also for damages, so that the filing fee for damages should be the basis of assessment.

Although docket fee of P60 was insufficient, SC held that the payment was the result of an honest difference of opinion as to the correct amount to be paid as docket fee.   As such, the court had acquired jurisdiction over the case, and the proceedings thereafter were proper and regular.

Hence, as amended complaint superseded the original complaint, the allegations of damages in the amended complaint should be the basis of the computation of filing fee.

No such honest difference of opinion is possible as the allegations of the complaint, the designation, and the prayer showed clearly that it is an action for damages and specific performance.

The docket fee should be assessed by considering the amount of damages as alleged in the original complaint.

Issue:
In relation to docket fees as applied in Manchester case:
a) Must it be based in original complaint or in the amended complaint?
b) In which part of the pleading must the amount of damages being prayed for stated?
c) Is the court devoid of jurisdiction for failure to pay the correct docket fees?

Held:

1.a) It must be based in the original complaint (as compared from Magaspic case where the docket fee was based from amended complaint due to honest difference of opinion.
1.b) The amount of damages being prayed for must be stated in both the body of the pleading and the prayer. Such amount will be the basis of the filing fees.
1.c) Yes

In Magaspi case, SC declared that a case is deemed filed only upon payment of docket fee regardless of the actual date of filing in court. As such, in Manchester, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case by payment of only P410 as docket fee. Neither the amendment of complaint vested jurisdiction upon the court because in essence, there was no such original complained that was duly filed which could be amended. The orders admitting the amended complaint and all subsequent proceedings and actions taken by the RTC are null and void.

CA was correct in ruling that the basis of assessment of docket fee should be the amount of damages sought in the original complaint and not in the amended complaint.

SC frowns at the practice of counsel who filed the original complaint by omitting any specification of the amount of damages in the prayer, although the real amount is alleged in the body of the complaint. This is clearly intended for no other purpose than to evade the payment of correct filing fees or to mislead the docket clear in the assessment of filing fee. Such fraudulent practice was compounded when Manchester, through another counsel, filed an amended complaint, deleting all mention of the amount of damages being asked for in the body of complaint. It was only when in obedience to the order of the SC that the amount of damages be specified in the amended complaint, that Manchester wrote the damages in a reduced amount in the body of the complaint but not in the prayer thereof. The design to avoid payment of the required docket fee was obvious.

To put a stop to this irregularity, henceforth all complaints, petitions, answers and other similar pleadings should specify the amount of damages being prayed for not only in the body of the pleading but also in the prayer, and said damages shall be considered in the assessment of the filing fees in any case. Any pleading that fails to comply with this requirement shall not be accepted nor admitted, or shall otherwise be expunged from the record.

The Court acquires jurisdiction over any case only upon the payment of the prescribed docket fee. An amendment of the complaint or similar pleading will not thereby vest jurisdiction in the Court, much less the payment of the docket fee based on the amounts sought in the amended pleading. The ruling in the Magaspi case in so far as it is inconsistent with this pronouncement is overturned and reversed.

Case Brief: Abellana v People and Spouses Alonto

G.R. No. 174654

Felixberto Abellana

v.

People & Spouses Alonto

FACTS:

An Information was filed charging petitioner with Estafa through Falsification of Public Document in connection with a Deed of Sale over a certain parcel of land owned by the spouses Alonto. After trial in the RTC, the trial court found that petitioner had no intention to defraud and that the spouses Alonto actually signed the document although they did not personally appear before the notary public for its notarization. Hence, the RTC instead convicted petitioner of falsification of public document. The trial court sentenced petitioner with imprisonment, ordered him to restore full ownership and possession of the land to Sps. Alonto, and in case of his failure to do so, he shall pay Sps. Alonto the value of the properties. He was further adjudged to pay damages and costs of suit to Sps. Alonto. On appeal, CA acquitted petitioner as it opined that the conviction for an offense not alleged in the Information or one not necessarily included in the offense charged violated petitioner’s constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. Nevertheless, the imposition of the civil liability was sustained. Petitioner then filed a motion for reconsideration but the same was denied. Hence, a Petition for Review on Certiorari before the Court.

ISSUES:

1. W.O.N. petitioner could still be held civilly liable notwithstanding his acquittal by the trial court and the CA?

2. W.O.N. the alternative sentence imposed by the trial court to petitioner should be sustained?

HELD:

1. No. It is an established rule in criminal procedure that a judgment of acquittal shall state whether the evidence of the prosecution absolutely failed to prove the guilt of the accused or merely failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In either case, the judgment shall determine if the act or omission from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. When the exoneration is merely due to the failure to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, the court should award the civil liability in favor of the offended party in the same criminal action. In other words, the extinction of the penal action does not carry with it the extinction of civil liability unless the extinction proceeds from a declaration in a final judgment that the fact from which the civil liability might arise did not exist. In case of exoneration of the accused, the civil liability may still arise when one, by reason of his own act or omission, done intentionally or negligently, causes damage to another. Hence, for petitioner to be civilly liable to spouses Alonto, it must be proven that the acts he committed had caused damage to the spouses. Based on the records of the case, Court found that the acts allegedly committed by the petitioner did not cause any damage to spouses Alonto. Moreover, the defective notarization does not ipso facto invalidate the Deed of Absolute Sale, the transfer of said properties from spouses Alonto to petitioner remains valid. Hence, when on the basis of said Deed of Absolute Sale, petitioner caused the cancellation of spouses Alonto’s title and the issuance of new ones under his name, and thereafter sold the same to third persons, no damage resulted to the spouses Alonto.

2. No. the Court cannot sustain the alternative sentence imposed upon the petitioner, to wit: to institute an action for the recovery of the properties of spouses Alonto or to pay them actual and other kinds of damages. Sentences should not be in the alternative. There is nothing in the law which permits courts to impose sentences in the alternative. While a judge has the discretion of imposing one or another penalty, he cannot impose both in the alternative. He must fix positively and with certainty the particular penalty.

Wherefore, Petition granted.

Case Brief: Castillo v Salvador

GR No. 191240,      July 30, 2014

CRISTINA B. CASTILLO, Petitioner,

vs. 

PHILLIP R. SALVADOR, Respondent.

 

Facts:

Petition for review on certiorari which assails the Decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) with respect only to the civil aspect of the case as respondent Phillip R. Salvador had been acquitted of the crime of Estafa.

The respondent Phillip R. Salvador was charged with Estafa under Article 315, paragraph 2 (a) of the Revised Penal Code. While, petitioner Cristina B. Castillo is a businesswoman engaged in real estate business, educational institution, boutique, and trading business. She was then enticed by Salvador and his brother, Ramon Salvador to engage in freight and remittance business.

As petitioner had deeply fallen in love with respondent Salvador and since she trusted him very much as he even acted as a father to her children while her annulment was ongoing, she agreed to embark on the remittance business. She agreed with respondent and Ramon that any profit derived from the business would be equally divided among them and that respondent would be in charge of promotion and marketing in Hong Kong, and Ramon would take charge of the operations of business in the Philippines and she would be financing the business.

The business has not operated yet as petitioner was still raising the amount of US$100,000.00 as capital for the actual operation. When petitioner already had the money, she handed the same to respondent Salvador which was witnessed by her disabled half-brother Enrico B. Tan. However, the proposed business never operated as respondent only stayed in Hong Kong for three days. When she asked respondent about the money and the business, the latter told her that the money was deposited in a bank. However, upon further query, respondent confessed that he used the money to pay for his other obligations. Since then, the US$100,000.00 was not returned at all.

Respondent’s defense that he and petitioner became close friends and eventually fell in love and had an affair. They traveled to Hong Kong and Bangkok where petitioner saw how popular he was among the Filipino domestic helpers, which led her to suggest a remittance business. Although hesitant, he has friends with such business. He denied that petitioner gave him US$10,000.00 when he went to Hong Kong and Bangkok. After he came back from the United States, petitioner had asked him and his brother Ramon for a meeting. During the meeting, petitioner brought up the money remittance business, but Ramon told her that they should make a study of it first. He was introduced to Roy Singun, owner of a money remittance business in Pasay City. Upon the advice of Roy, respondent and petitioner, her husband and Ramon went to Palau. He denied receiving US$20,000.00 from petitioner but admitted that it was petitioner who paid for the plane tickets. After their Palau trip, they went into training at Western Union at the First World Center in Makati City. Ramon, petitioner and her mother went to Hong Kong to register the business, while he took care of petitioner’s children here. He and Ramon went back to Hong Kong but denied having received the amount of US$100,000.00 from petitioner but then admitted receipt of the amount of P100, 000.00 which petitioner asked him to give to Charlie Chau as payment for the pieces of diamond jewelry she got from him, which Chau had duly acknowledged. He denied Enrico’s testimony that petitioner gave him the amount of US$100,000.00 in his mother’s house. He claimed that no remittance business was started in Hong Kong as they had no license, equipment, personnel and money to operate the same. Upon his return to the Philippines, petitioner never asked him about the business, as she never gave him such amount. He intimated that he and petitioner even went to Hong Kong again to buy some goods for the latter’s boutique. He admitted that he loved petitioner and her children very much as there was a time when petitioner’s finances were short; he gave her P600, 000.00 for the enrollment of her children in very expensive schools. It is also not true that he and Ramon initiated the Hong Kong and Bangkok trips

Petitioner files the instant petition on the civil aspect of the case alleging that even if the Court Of Appeals decided to acquit him it should have at least retained the award of damages to the petitioner.

ISSUE:

WON the award of damages or the civil aspect be retained.

RULING:

The award of damages must be removed. Our law recognizes two kinds of acquittal, with different effects on the civil liability of the accused. First is an acquittal on the ground that the accused is not the author of the actor omission complained of. This instance closes the door to civil liability, for a person who has been found to be not the perpetrator of any act or omission cannot and can never be held liable for such act or omission. There being no delict, civil liability ex delicto is out of the question, and the civil action, if any, which may be instituted must be based on grounds other than the delict complained of. This is the situation contemplated in Rule 111 of the Rules of Court. The second instance is an acquittal based on reasonable doubt on the guilt of the accused. In this case, even if the guilt of the accused has not been satisfactorily established, he is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by preponderance of evidence only. This is the situation contemplated in Article 29 of the Civil Code, where the civil action for damages is “for the same act or omission.

A reading of the CA decision would show that respondent was acquitted because the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Said the CA:

The evidence for the prosecution being insufficient to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the crime as charged had been committed by appellant, the general presumption, “that a person is innocent of the crime or wrong, stands in his favor. The prosecution failed to prove that all the elements of Estafa are present in this case as would overcome the presumption of innocence in favor of appellant. For in fact, the prosecution’s primary witness herself could not even establish clearly and precisely how appellant committed the alleged fraud. She failed to convince us that she was deceived through misrepresentations and/or insidious actions, in venturing into a remittance business. Quite the contrary, the obtaining circumstance in this case indicate the weakness of her submissions.

Thus, since the acquittal is based on reasonable doubt, respondent is not exempt from civil liability which may be proved by preponderance of evidence only. In Encinas v. National Bookstore, Inc., the higher court explained the concept of preponderance of evidence as follows:

Preponderance of evidence is the weight, credit, and value of the aggregate evidence on either side and is usually considered to be synonymous with the term “greater weight of the evidence” or “greater weight of the credible evidence.” Preponderance of evidence is a phrase which, in the last analysis, means probability of the truth. It is evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.

However, in this case, no such civil liability is proved even by preponderance of evidence.

In discrediting petitioner’s allegation that she gave respondent US$100,000.00 in May 2002, the CA found that: (1) petitioner failed to show how she was able to raise the money in such a short period of time and even gave conflicting versions on the source of the same; (2) petitioner failed to require respondent to sign a receipt so she could have a record of the transaction and offered no plausible reason why the money was allegedly hand-carried to Hong Kong; (3) petitioner’s claim of trust as reason for not requiring respondent to sign a receipt was inconsistent with the way she conducted her previous transactions with him; and (4) petitioner’s behavior after the alleged fraud perpetrated against her was inconsistent with the actuation of someone who had been swindled.

The petition for the award of damages is denied.