Casupanan vs. Laroya; G.R. No. 145391. August 26, 2002

FACTS

2 Vehicles are involve in an accident. One is driven by the respondent (Laroya) & the other one is driven by Casupanan and owned by Capitulo.

Both of them filed separate cases in MCTC in Tarlac.

  • Laroya filed the criminal case for reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property based on the Revised Penal Code while
  • Casupanan and Capitulo filed the civil action for damages based on Article 2176 of the Civil Code.

ART. 2176. Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is so pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter.

When the civil case was filed, the criminal case was then at its preliminary investigation stage. Laroya, defendant in the civil case, filed a motion to dismiss the civil case on the ground of forum-shopping considering the pendency of the criminal case.

Petitioners contended that civil case is a separate civil action which can proceed independently of the criminal case. They contend that an action on quasi-delict is different from an action resulting from the crime of reckless imprudence, and an accused in a criminal case can be an aggrieved party in a civil case arising from the same incident. They maintain that under Articles 31 and 2176 of the Civil Code, the civil case can proceed independently of the criminal action. Finally, they point out that Casupanan was not the only one who filed the independent civil action based on quasi-delict but also Capitulo, the owner-operator of the vehicle, who was not a party in the criminal case.

The MCTC dismissed the civil action for quasi-delict on the ground of forum-shopping under Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 04-94. The MCTC did not state in its order of dismissal5 that the dismissal was with prejudice.

The Capas RTC rendered judgment

ISSUE

(1) whether an accused in a pending criminal case for reckless imprudence can validly file, simultaneously and independently, a separate civil action for quasi-delict against the private complainant in the criminal case.

YES. Although these two actions arose from the same act or omission, they have different causes of action. The criminal case is based on culpa criminal punishable under the Revised Penal Code while the civil case is based on culpa aquiliana actionable under Articles 2176 and 2177 of the Civil Code.

Filing of a separate civil action

Under Section 1 of the present Rule 111, what is “deemed instituted” with the criminal action is only the action to recover civil liability arising from the crime or ex-delicto. All the other civil actions under Articles 32, 33, 34 and 2176 of the Civil Code are no longer “deemed instituted,” and may be filed separately and prosecuted independently even without any reservation in the criminal action. The failure to make a reservation in the criminal action is not a waiver of the right to file a separate and independent civil action based on these articles of the Civil Code. The prescriptive period on the civil actions based on these articles of the Civil Code continues to run even with the filing of the criminal action. Verily, the civil actions based on these articles of the Civil Code are separate, distinct and independent of the civil action “deemed instituted” in the criminal action.

The essence of forum-shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, to secure a favorable judgment.

(2) whether Casupanan and Capitulo, who are not the offended parties in the criminal case, can file a separate civil action against the offended party in the criminal case.

YES. in paragraph 6, Section 1 of the present Rule 111 which states that the counterclaim of the accused “may be litigated in a separate civil action.” Similarly, the accused can file a civil action for quasi-delict for the same act or omission he is accused of in the criminal case.

This is only fair for two reasons.

(1) First, the accused is prohibited from setting up any counterclaim in the civil aspect that is deemed instituted in the criminal case. The accused is therefore forced to litigate separately his counterclaim against the offended party. If the accused does not file a separate civil action for quasi-delict, the prescriptive period may set in since the period continues to run until the civil action for quasi-delict is filed.

(2) Second, the accused, who is presumed innocent, has a right to invoke Article 2177 of the Civil Code, in the same way that the offended party can avail of this remedy which is independent of the criminal action. To disallow the accused from filing a separate civil action for quasi-delict, while refusing to recognize his counterclaim in the criminal case, is to deny him due process of law, access to the courts, and equal protection of the law.

Notes

Clearly, Section 3 of Rule 111 refers to the offended party in the criminal action, not to the accused. Sec 3 of Rule 111, expressly allows the “offended party” to bring an independent civil action under Articles 32, 33, 34 and 2176 of the Civil Code. This civil action shall proceed independently of the criminal action and shall require only a preponderance of evidence.

The offended party can file two separate suits for the same act or omission.

(1) The first a criminal case where the civil action to recover civil liability ex-delicto is deemed instituted, and the other a civil case for quasi-delict—without violating the rule on non-forum shopping. The two cases can proceed simultaneously and independently of each other. The commencement or prosecution of the criminal action will not suspend the civil action for quasi-delict. The only limitation is that the offended party cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant.

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