Mendoza v. Arrieta

G.R. No. L-32599, June 29, 1979, 91 SCRA 113

FACTS:

A three- way vehicular accident involving a Mercedes Benz owned and driven by petitioner; a private jeep owned and driven by respondent Rodolfo Salazar; and a gravel and sand truck owned by respondent Felipino Timbol and driven by Freddie Montoya. As a consequence of said mishap, two separate Informations for Reckless Imprudence Causing Damage to Property were filed against Rodolfo Salazar and Freddie Montoya. The trial Court absolved jeep-owner-driver Salazar of any liability, civil and criminal, in view of its findings that the collision between Salazar’s jeep and petitioner’s car was the result of the former having been bumped from behind by the truck driven by Montoya. Neither was petitioner awarded damages as he was not a complainant against truck-driver Montoya but only against jeep- owner-driver Salazar.

After the termination of the criminal cases, petitioner filed a civil case against respondents jeep-owner-driver Salazar and Felino Timbol, the latter being the owner of the gravel and sand truck driven by Montoya, for indemnification for the damages sustained by his car as a result of the collision involving their vehicles. Jeep-owner-driver Salazar and truck- owner Timbol were joined as defendants, either in the alternative or in solidum allegedly for the reason that petitioner was uncertain as to whether he was entitled to relief against both on only one of them. Respondent Judge dismissed the Complaint against truck-owner Timbol and jeep- owner-driver Salazar.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the cases against Salazar and Timbol were properly dismissed.

RULING:

The suit against to truck-owner Timbol:

Well-settled is the rule that for a prior judgment to constitute a bar to a subsequent case, the following requisites must concur:

(1)it must be a final judgment; (2) it must have been rendered by a Court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and over the parties; (3) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must be, between the first and second actions, Identity of parties, Identity of subject matter and Identity of cause of action.

It is conceded that the first three requisites of res judicata are present. However, the court agrees with petitioner that there is no Identity of cause of action between the criminal and civil case. Obvious is the fact that in said criminal case truck-driver Montoya was not prosecuted for damage to petitioner’s car but for damage to the jeep. Neither was truck-owner Timbol a party in said case. In the criminal cases, the cause of action was the enforcement of the civil liability arising from criminal negligence under Article l of the Revised Penal Code, whereas Civil Case No. 80803 is based on quasi-delict under Article 2180.

Petitioner’s cause of action against Timbol in the civil case is based on quasi-delict is evident from the recitals in the complaint to wit: that while petitioner was driving his car along MacArthur Highway at Marilao, Bulacan, a jeep owned and driven by Salazar suddenly swerved to his (petitioner’s) lane and collided with his car: That the sudden swerving of Salazar’s jeep was caused either by the negligence and lack of skill of Freddie Montoya, Timbol’s employee, who was then driving a gravel and sand truck the same direction as Salazar’s jeep; and that as a consequence of the collision, petitioner’s car suffered extensive damage. Consequently,
petitioner’s cause of action being based on quasi-delict, respondent Judge committed reversible error when he dismissed the civil suit against the truck-owner, as said case may proceed independently of the criminal proceedings and regardless of the result of the latter. But it is truck-owner Timbol’s submission (as well as that of jeep-owner-driver Salazar) that petitioner’s failure to make a reservation in the criminal action of his right to file an independent civil action bars the institution of such separate civil action. In so far as truck-owner Timbol is concerned, he is not barred by the fact that petitioner failed to reserve, in the criminal action, his right to file an independent civil action based on quasi-delict.

The suit against jeep-owner-driver Salazar:

Petitioner had opted to base his cause of action against jeep-owner-driver Salazar on culpa criminal and not on culpa aquiliana as evidenced by his active participation and intervention in the prosecution of the criminal suit against said Salazar. The latter’s civil liability continued to be involved in the criminal action until its termination. Such being the case, there was no need for petitioner to have reserved his right to file a separate civil action as his action for civil liability was deemed impliedly instituted in criminal case. Jeep-owner-driver Salazar cannot be held liable for the damages sustained by petitioner’s car. In other words, “the fact from which the civil might arise did not exist.”

And even if petitioner’s cause of action as against jeep-owner-driver Salazar were not ex-delictu, the end result would be the same, it being clear from the judgment in the criminal case that Salazar’s acquittal was not based upon reasonable doubt, consequently, a civil action for damages can no longer be instituted. This is explicitly provided for in Article 29 of the Civil Code quoted here under:

Art. 29. When the accused in a criminal prosecution is acquitted on the ground that his guilt has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt, a civil action for damages for the same act or omission may be instituted. Such action requires only a preponderance of evidence …

If in a criminal case the judgment of acquittal is based upon reasonable doubt, the court shall so declare. In the absence of any declaration to that effect, it may be inferred from the text of the decision whether or not the acquittal is due to that ground.

In so far as the suit against jeep-owner-driver Salazar is concerned, therefore, we sustain respondent Judge’s Order dated January 30, 1971 dismissing the complaint, albeit on different grounds.

 * Case digest by Paula Bianca Eguia, LLB-1, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2017-2018

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