Thursday, February 23, 2012

Napere vs. Barbarona

Facts: Jose Barabarona co-owns a property in Leyte. Juan Napere who owns the adjoining lot planted coconut trees not only on his lot but also on the lot of Barbarona. Barbarona filed a case for quieting of title and recovery of possession of property against Napere. While the case was pending, Juan Napere died. His counsel informed the court of such fact. He also gave the names of the heirs of Napere. On the merits, the RTC ruled in favor of Barbarona, The heirs of Napere argue that the decision is a nullity because the RTC was not able to acquire jurisdiction of the heirs after Juan Napere died. 

Issue: Whether or not mere failure to substitute a deceased party is sufficient to nullify the RTC decision 

Held: No. According to the Rules of Court, when a party to a pending case dies, and the action is not extinguished by death, the Rules require the substitution of the deceased party y his legal representative or heirs. In such case, the counsel is obliged to inform the court of the death of his client and give the name and address of the latter’s legal representatives. 

These obligations were complied with by Napere’s counsel. It is the RTC who failed to order a substitution. Despite of this, the RTC decision should not be nullified unless there is a showing that such failure to order a substitute constitutes an undeniable violation of due process. 

The matter of substitution of heirs is not a matter of jurisdiction, but a requirement of due process. The rule was designed to ensure that the deceased part would continue to be properly represented in the suit through his heirs. This was accomplished in this case, because even without the order of the court, the heirs of Napere have appeared and actively participated in the proceedings. Formal substitution of heirs is, therefore, not necessary.

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