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Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club vs. Won

Facts: Wack Wack Golf and Country Club filed a complaint for interpleader against Won and Tan who both claim ownership over membership fee certificate 201. Won claims its ownership stemming from a decision rendered in Civil Case 26044 entitled "Lee E. Won alias Ramon Lee vs. Wack Wack Golf & Country Club, Inc." Meanwhile, Tan claims ownership from the assignment made by the alleged true owner of the same certificate. The trial court dismissed the complaint on the ground of res judicata by reason of the previous civil case that issued Won the right to the certificate. Hence, the appeal.

Issue: Was the remedy of interpleader proper and timely?

Held: There is no question that the subject matter of the present controversy, i.e., the membership fee certificate 201, is proper for an interpleader suit. However, the Corporation may not properly invoke the remedy of interpleader.

It is the general rule that before a person will be deemed to be in a position to ask for an order of intrepleader, he must be prepared to show, among other prerequisites, that he has not become independently liable to any of the claimants. Indeed, if a stakeholder defends a suit filed by one of the adverse claimants and allows said suit to proceed to final judgment against him, he cannot later on have that part of the litigation repeated in an interpleader suit. 

In the case at hand, the Corporation allowed civil case 26044 to proceed to final judgment. It was aware of the conflicting claims of the appellees with respect to the membership fee certificate 201 long before it filed the present interpleader suit. Yet it did not interplead Tan. It preferred to proceed with the litigation and to defend itself therein. As a matter of fact, final judgment was rendered against it and said judgment has already been executed. It is therefore too late for it to invoke the remedy of interpleader

To now permit the Corporation to bring Won to court after the latter's successful establishment of his rights in civil case 26044 to the membership fee certificate 201, is to increase instead of to diminish the number of suits, which is one of the purposes of an action of interpleader, with the possibility that the latter would lose the benefits of the favorable judgment. This cannot be done because having elected to take its chances of success in said civil case 26044, with full knowledge of all the fact, the Corporation must submit to the consequences of defeat. 

Besides, a successful litigant cannot later be impleaded by his defeated adversary in an interpleader suit and compelled to prove his claim anew against other adverse claimants, as that would in effect be a collateral attack upon the judgment.

In fine, the instant interpleader suit cannot prosper because the Corporation had already been made independently liable in civil case 26044 and, therefore, its present application for interpleader would in effect be a collateral attack upon the final judgment in the said civil case; the appellee Lee had already established his rights to membership fee certificate 201 in the aforesaid civil case and, therefore, this interpleader suit would compel him to establish his rights anew, and thereby increase instead of diminish litigations, which is one of the purposes of an interpleader suit, with the possibility that the benefits of the final judgment in the said civil case might eventually be taken away from him; and because the Corporation allowed itself to be sued to final judgment in the said case, its action of interpleader was filed inexcusably late, for which reason it is barred by laches or unreasonable delay. (Wack-Wack Golf and Country Club vs. Won, G.R. No. L-23851, March 26, 1976)

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