Thursday, March 08, 2012

Lorenzana Food Corporation (LFC) vs. Daria

Facts: Atty. Daria was hired by Lorenzana Food Corporation as its legal counsel and was eventually designated as its personal manager. In the course of his employment with the corp he was involved in two labor cases: 

Hanopol case - A certain Veronica Hanopol who was allegedly illegally dismissed, filed a case against him. During the initial hearing, Daria and Hanopol agreed to an amicable settlement and set a date for the next meeting. 

This was reset after Hanopol did not show up and the Labor Arbiter reset the date further to June 20, 1983. On that date, Daria was in another hearing and he moved to postpone the Hanopol hearing through a phone message but the Labor Arbiter did not receive it, hence he considers the case as submitted for decision based on Hanopol’s complaint and affidavit. 

Daria appealed to the NLRC and the case was remanded to the Labor Arbiter for further proceedings. Attempts to have an amicable settlement proved futile. By the time the final hearing was set, Daria had already resigned from the company and no one appeared for the corp during the Hanopol hearing. Labor arbiter revived his earlier decision awarding Hanopol with sum of P6,469.80 in labor benefits. New counsel for the corp appealed to the judgment and this was remanded for further proceedings. 

San Juan case - Roberto San Juan is an employee of the corp who was accused of double liquidation and unliquidated cash advances. He was asked to submit a written explanation and was placed on preventive suspension. He was required to restitute said amount to the company but upon failure to do so, a complaint of estafa was filed against him. San Juan resigned and sought the assistance of Daria in preparing his counteraffidavit. 

Because of these incidents, LFC files an administrative charge against Daria for negligence and betrayal of former client’s confidences. 

Issue: Do the acts of Atty. Daria constitute negligence and betrayal of his former client’s confidence? 

Held: Court says Yes, Daria violated Code of Professional Responsibility and betrayed the confidences of his former client. He is suspended from the practice of law for 6 months. 

Canon 18 provides that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence; Rule 18.03 provides that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. 

Because Daria had a responsibility to attend the two scheduled hearings he missed and had he filed the required position paper for the corporation then at least there would have been no delay in the resolution of the case which the court states could have been in favor of the corporation. The delay was prejudicial to LFC because it deprived successor counsel of the time which he should be devoting to other cases of LFC instead of the work left by Daria. The respondent’s claim that he was able to persuade NLRC on appeal to set aside the first decision is no matter. Negligence is apparent in the conduct of Daria. 

As for preparing the counter-affidavit of San Juan, the court is not convinced with his denial of his participation in the preparation. His signature was placed on the document and it is clear that the contention of Daria is a mere afterthought. 

An attorney owes loyalty to his client not only in the case in which he has represented him but also for the relation of attorney and client has terminated. It is not good practice to permit him afterwards to defend in another case other persons against his former client under the pretext that the case is distinct and independent of the former case. 

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