Sunday, March 04, 2012

Swagman vs. CA [GR NO. 161135, April 8, 2005]

Facts: Sometime in 1996 and 1997, Swagman through Atty. Infante and Hegerty, its president and vice-president, respectively, obtained from Christian loans evidenced by three promissory notes dated 7 August 1996, 14 March 1997, and 14 July 1997. Each of the promissory notes is in the amount of US$50,000 payable after three years from its date with an interest of 15% per annum payable every three months. In a letter dated 16 December 1998, Christian informed the petitioner corporation that he was terminating the loans and demanded from the latter payment of said loans.

On 2 February 1999, Christian filed with the RTC a complaint for a sum of money and damages against the petitioner corporation, Hegerty, and Atty. Infante.

The petitioner corporation, together with its president and vice-president, filed an Answer raising as defenses lack of cause of action. According to them, Christian had no cause of action because the three promissory notes were not yet due and demandable.

The trial court ruled that under Section 5 of Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint which states no cause of action may be cured by evidence presented without objection. Thus, even if the plaintiff had no cause of action at the time he filed the instant complaint, as defendants’ obligation are not yet due and demandable then, he may nevertheless recover on the first two promissory notes in view of the introduction of evidence showing that the obligations covered by the two promissory notes are now due and demandable. When the instant case was filed on February 2, 1999, none of the promissory notes was due and demandable, but , the first and the second promissory notes have already matured during the course of the proceeding. Hence, payment is already due.

This finding was affirmed in toto by the CA.

Issue: Whether or not a complaint that lacks a cause of action at the time it was filed be cured by the accrual of a cause of action during the pendency of the case. 

Held: No. Cause of action, as defined in Section 2, Rule 2 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, is the act or omission by which a party violates the right of another. Its essential elements are as follows:

1. A right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created;

2. An obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and

3. Act or omission on the part of such defendant in violation of the right of the plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of the defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages or other appropriate relief.

It is, thus, only upon the occurrence of the last element that a cause of action arises, giving the plaintiff the right to maintain an action in court for recovery of damages or other appropriate relief.

Such interpretation by the trial court and CA of Section 5, Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is erroneous. The curing effect under Section 5 is applicable only if a cause of action in fact exists at the time the complaint is filed, but the complaint is defective for failure to allege the essential facts.Amendments of pleadings are allowed under Rule 10 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure in order that the actual merits of a case may be determined in the most expeditious and inexpensive manner without regard to technicalities, and that all other matters included in the case may be determined in a single proceeding, thereby avoiding multiplicity of suits.

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