G.R. No. 149489. June 30, 2006.
In 1990, Private Enterprise and Valentina Magada entered into a lease contract for 1 year with monthly rental of P3,000. The lessor allowed the petitioner to introduce and/or construct any structure of light materials on the leased premises provided the lessee shall remove the same not later than 30 days after the expiration of the contract. In case, where the petitioner failed to remove the structure, the removal shall be done by the lessor at the expense of lessee. Upon the expiry of the lease, Magada asked for the removal of the improvements but the petitioner refused and claimed that it entered a new lease contract with the heirs of Maria Bacud, who is allegedly the real owner of the subject premise. The respondent and his hired men demolished the bunkhouse which petitioner introduced on the leased premises.
Petitioner filed with the RTC of Cagayan de Oro City, a complaint for injunction with damages against Valentina. The RTC denied petitioner’s application for a writ of preliminary injunction, the petition was docketed as G.R. No. 102269. Petitioner then filed a motion to dismiss Civil Case No. 91-340 provided that Valentina’s counterclaim be likewise dismissed. The RTC denied petitioner’s motion to dismiss because Valentina did not agree with the dismissal of her counterclaim. The Court in G.R. No. 102269 denied petitioner’s petition for review on certiorari and affirmed the RTC’s denial of petitioner’s application for injunction. The Court ruled that petitioner was not entitled to the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction since at the time the complaint was filed, the contract of lease had long expired.
Petitioner filed another complaint for damages on demolishing the bunkhouse against respondent with the RTC of Cagayan de Oro City, docketed as Civil Case No. 92-099. Respondent filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the same was barred by prior judgment as decided in G.R. No. 102269. The RTC found that Civil Case No. 91-340 which already attained finality has the same subject matter, same defendant, subject matter and causes of action as in Civil Case No. 92-099, res judicata has set in.The CA rendered the herein assailed decision affirming the RTC’s Order on the ground that the causes of action in the subject two cases are the same as to warrant the application of the doctrine of res judicata.
Petitioner insists that there is no identity of parties and the reliefs sought were not the same, i.e., the first case was for injunction while the second case was filed principally for damages. It also claims that it did not violate the rule against splitting a cause of action as the instant case arose from a criminal offense; that respondent in taking back possession of the leased property took the law into his hands.
(1) Whether or not petitioner’s filing of Civil Case No. 92-099 for damages is barred by the rule on res judicata.
(2) Whether or not the petitioner did not violate the rule against splitting a cause of action since the first case was filed for injunction and the second case was filed principally for damages, considering also that the first case had been dismissed at the instance of petitioner.
(1) Yes, Civil Case No. 92-099 (second case) is already barred by res judicata, the issue of res judicata raised in the instant petition is utterly foreclosed. It has become the law of the case between petitioner and respondent and may no longer be disturbed or modified. Law of the case has been defined as the opinion delivered on a former appeal. More specifically, it means that whatever is once irrevocably established as the controlling legal rule or decision between the same parties in the same case continues to be the law of the case, whether correct on general principles or not, so long as the facts on which such decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the case before the court.
(2) Yes, the effect of splitting a single cause of action is applicable in this case. For a single cause of action or violation of a right, the plaintiff may be entitled to several reliefs. It is the filing of the separate complaints for these several reliefs that constitutes splitting of the cause of action. This is what is prohibited by the rule.Thus, when the Supreme Court ruled in G.R. No. 102269 on February 3, 1992, the actual damages allegedly sustained by the petitioner is a matter that could have been raised in relation thereto. To allow the respondent court in Civil Case No. 92-099 to make another ruling on whether there was a legal right of petitioner violated by virtue of the demolition of the improvement would be to allow it to rule again on a controversy already decided by the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 102269 which refers to the same parties, and the same cause of action or subject of controversy.
When there is only one delict or wrong, there is but a single cause of action regardless of the number of rights violated belonging to one person, All such rights should be alleged in a single complaint, otherwise they are barred forever.
A cause of action is defined as an act or omission of one party in violation of the legal right of the other and its essential elements are a legal right of the plaintiff, correlative obligation of the defendant and an act or omission of the defendant in violation of said legal right.