G.R. No. 115734, 23 February 2000
Gaudencia Zarraga allegedly sold to private respondents her share in Lot 115-A-1. The sale was evidenced by a notarized document denominated as “Bilihang Tuluyan ng Kalahati (1/2) ng Isang Lagay na Lupa.”
Private respondents, are the children of Mariano Zarraga, the brother of Gaudencia, alleged that they were the lawful owners of Lot 115-A-1, the one-half share inherited by their father and the other half purchased from their deceased aunt, Gaudencia.
Petitioners, all surnamed Loyola, are first cousins of private respondents, assailed the validity of the deed of absolute sale citing that it is a simulated contract since the notary public who prepared the questioned Bilihan did not personally know Gaudencia, thus, the deed of sale is questionable.
Whether fraud or undue influence was exercised to obtain Gaudencia’s consent to the sale.
Article 1337 of the Civil Code states: There is undue influence when a person takes improper advantage of his power over the will of another, depriving the latter of a reasonable freedom of choice. The following circumstances shall be considered: confidential, family, spiritual, and other relations between the parties, or the fact that the person alleged to have been unduly influenced was suffering from mental weakness, or was ignorant or in financial distress.
For undue influence to be established to justify the cancellation of an instrument, three elements must be present:
- a person who can be influenced;
- the fact that improper influence was exerted;
- submission to the overwhelming effect of such unlawful conduct.
To prove a confidential relationship from which undue influence may arise, the relationship must reflect a dominant, overmastering influence which controls over the dependent person. In the present case, petitioners failed to show that Romana used her aunt’s reliance upon her to take advantage or dominate her and dictate that she sell her land. Undue influence is not to be inferred from age, sickness, or debility of body, if sufficient intelligence remains.
The Deed of Absolute Sale is valid.
[A confidential or fiduciary relationship may include any relation between persons, which allows one to dominate the other, with the opportunity to use that superiority to the other’s disadvantage. Included are those of attorney and client, physician and patient, nurse and invalid, parent and child, guardian and ward, member of a church or sect and spiritual adviser, a person and his confidential adviser, or whenever a confidential relationship exists as a fact.]
* Case digest by Cherry Mae Aguilla-Granada, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018