G.R. No. 175301, 15 August 2012
The petitioners are the neighbors of Jose Ancheta (respondent). Sometime in 1998, respondent’s septic tank overflowed; human wastes and other offensive materials spread throughout his entire property. As a result, respondent and his family lived through a very unsanitary environment, suffering foul odor and filthy premises for several months.
In the early months of 1999, the respondent engaged the services of Z.E. Malabanan Excavation & Plumbing Services to fix the overflow. It was then discovered that the underground drainage pipe, which connected respondent’s septic tank to the subdivision’s drainage system, had been closed by cement that blocked the free flow of the wastes from the septic tank to the drainage system.
The respondent narrated that the petitioners had just recently renovated their duplex unit and, in the process, had made some diggings in the same portion where the drainage pipe had been cemented.6 The respondent added that the closing of the drainage pipe with cement could not have been the result of an accident, but was the malicious act by the petitioners.7 On May 19, 1999, the respondent filed a complaint for damages against the petitioners with the RTC, alleging that the petitioners maliciously closed a portion of the respondent’s drainage pipe and this led to the overflowing of the respondent’s septic tank.
On June 24, 1999, the petitioners moved to dismiss the complaint on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.
Whether or not the RTC has jurisdiction over the dispute.
Jurisdiction is determined by the allegations in the complaint.
“The allegations in the complaint and the reliefs prayed for are the determinants of the nature of the action and of which court has jurisdiction over the matter.” Even a cursory reading of these allegations yield no conclusion other than that the complaint is an ordinary action for damages that is purely civil rather than corporate in character. The respondent merely seeks to be indemnified for the harm he suffered; no question about the membership of the petitioners in the association is involved, nor is the existence of the association in any manner under question. In fact, these allegations are based on either Articles 19,16 20,17 and 2118 of the Civil Code on human relations, and on the provisions on damages under Title XVIII of the Civil Code. Thus, the CA decision is correct when it held that the acts alleged in the subject complaint may also give rise to indemnification under Article 2176 of the Civil Code, which provides:
Article 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 no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter.
Since the issue of damages arising from the Civil Code, not intra-corporate controversy, is involved, the RTC is the appropriate court with the power to try the case.
*Case Digest by Catherine C. Velasco, LLB-IV, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020