Friday, December 16, 2011

HEIRS OF JOSE LIM, represented by ELENITO LIM vs. JULIET VILLA LIM G.R. No. 172690, March 3, 2010


Petitioners are the heirs of the late Jose Lim (Jose). They filed a Complaint for Partition, Accounting and Damages against respondent Juliet Villa Lim (respondent), widow of the late Elfledo Lim (Elfledo), who was the eldest son of Jose and Cresencia.

Petitioners alleged that Jose was the liaison officer of Interwood Sawmill in Cagsiay, Mauban, Quezon. Sometime in 1980, Jose, together with his friends Jimmy Yu (Jimmy) and Norberto Uy (Norberto), formed a partnership to engage in the trucking business. Initially, with a contribution of P50,000.00 each, they purchased a truck to be used in the hauling and transport of lumber of the sawmill. Jose managed the operations of this trucking business until his death on August 15, 1981. Thereafter, Jose's heirs, including Elfledo, and partners agreed to continue the business under the management of Elfledo. The shares in the partnership profits and income that formed part of the estate of Jose were held in trust by Elfledo, with petitioners' authority for Elfledo to use, purchase or acquire properties using said funds. Petitioners alleged that Elfledo was never a partner or an investor in the business and merely supervised the purchase of additional trucks using the income from the trucking business of the partners.

On May 18, 1995, Elfledo died, leaving respondent as his sole surviving heir. Petitioners claimed that respondent took over the administration of the aforementioned properties, which belonged to the estate of Jose, without their consent and approval. Claiming that they are co-owners of the properties, petitioners required respondent to submit an accounting of all income, profits and rentals received from the estate of Elfledo, and to surrender the administration thereof. Respondent refused; thus, the filing of this case.

Respondent traversed petitioners' allegations and claimed that Elfledo was himself a partner of Norberto and Jimmy. Respondent also alleged that when Jose died in 1981, he left no known assets, and the partnership with Jimmy and Norberto ceased upon his demise. Respondent also stressed that Jose left no properties that Elfledo could have held in trust. Respondent maintained that all the properties involved in this case were purchased and acquired through her and her husband’s joint efforts and hard work, and without any participation or contribution from petitioners or from Jose.

ISSUE: Whether or not a partnership exists.

HELD: YES. A partnership exists when two or more persons agree to place their money, effects, labor, and skill in lawful commerce or business, with the understanding that there shall be a proportionate sharing of the profits and losses among them. A contract of partnership is defined by the Civil Code as one where two or more persons bind themselves to contribute money, property, or industry to a common fund, with the intention of dividing the profits among themselves.

The following circumstances tend to prove that Elfledo was himself the partner of Jimmy and Norberto: 1) Cresencia testified that Jose gave Elfledo P50,000.00, as share in the partnership, on a date that coincided with the payment of the initial capital in the partnership; (2) Elfledo ran the affairs of the partnership, wielding absolute control, power and authority, without any intervention or opposition whatsoever from any of petitioners herein; (3) all of the properties were registered in the name of Elfledo; (4) Jimmy testified that Elfledo did not receive wages or salaries from the partnership, indicating that what he actually received were shares of the profits of the business; and (5) none of the petitioners, as heirs of Jose, the alleged partner, demanded periodic accounting from Elfledo during his lifetime.

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