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Dismissal Due to Fault of Plaintiff


Section 3. Dismissal due to fault of plaintiff. — If, for no justifiable cause, the plaintiff fails to appear on the date of the presentation of his evidence in chief on the complaint, or to prosecute his action for an unreasonable length of time, or to comply with these Rules or any order of the court, the complaint may be dismissed upon motion of the defendant or upon the court's own motion, without prejudice to the right of the defendant to prosecute his counterclaim in the same or in a separate action. This dismissal shall have the effect of an adjudication upon the merits, unless otherwise declared by the court. (Rule 17, Rules of Court)


What is the dismissal under Sec. 3 Rule 17?

The dismissal is no longer at the instance of the plaintiff but either of the defendant or of the court itself.

What are the three grounds for the dismissal under Section 3, Rule 17?

The three grounds for the dismissal of a case under Section 3, Rule 17 are the following:
  1. Failure of the plaintiff to appear on the date of the presentation of his evidence in chief on the complaint;
  2. Failure of the plaintiff to prosecute his action for an unreasonable period of time;
  3. Failure of the plaintiff to comply with the Rules or any order of the court.

What is the nature of dismissal under this case?

A dismissal under Sec.3 Rule 17 is a dismissal with prejudice unless the court provides otherwise.


If the dismissal order is not qualified, it simply says that the complaint be dismissed pursuant to Sec. 3 Rule 17, is the dismissal with or without prejudice?

The dismissal is with prejudice. Plaintiff can no longer re-file the case.

Example:

When the case was called for trial, plaintiff did not appear. Defendant moved to dismiss under Section 3. The court dismissed the case. Can the case be re-filed? No, the dismissal is with prejudice. (General Rule)

Suppose the court will say "For non-appearance of the plaintiff, the complaint is dismissed without prejudice. Can the case be re-filed? Yes. (Exception)


Dismissal Upon Motion of Plaintiff (Sec. 2) vs. Dismissal Due to Fault of Plaintiff (Sec. 3)

(Sec. 2)
  1. dismissal is at the instance of the plaintiff;
  2. dismissal is as a matter of procedure, without prejudice unless otherwise stated in the order of the court or on plaintiff’s motion to dismiss his own complaint;
  3. dismissal is without prejudice to the right of the defendant to prosecute his counterclaim in a separate action unless 15 days from notice of the motion he manifests his intention to have his counterclaim resolved in the same action.
(Sec. 3)
  1. dismissal is not procured by plaintiff though justified by causes imputable to him;
  2. dismissal is a matter of evidence, an adjudication on the merits;
  3. dismissal is without prejudice to the right of the defendant to prosecute his counterclaim on the same or separate action.

1st Ground: Failure of the plaintiff to appear 
on the date of the presentation of his evidence in chief

Take note that the absence of the plaintiff for a hearing is not in itself a ground for a dismissal under Sec. 3, Rule 17. It is an absence during the hearing during which he is supposed to present his evidence in chief on his complaint. His absence on any other hearing is not a ground for dismissal under this section.

Example:

The case was set for initial hearing for the presentation of evidence in chief of plaintiff A on Dec. 12, 2014. A, however, failed to appear without valid reason. Under Sec. 3 Rule 17, the court can dismiss the action of A, or on motion of B, the court may dismiss the action.


Supposing the hearing on Dec. 12, 2014 is for the reception of evidence of B, but A was not present on this day, may the complaint of A be dismissed under Sec. 3 Rule 17?

No, for the simple reason that it was no longer his turn to present the evidence in chief on this day. It was the turn of B. The complaint cannot be dismissed because this situation presupposes that A already presented his main evidence, or his evidence in chief, or part of his evidence in chief. 


Supposing on Dec. 12, 2014 A was supposed to present his rebuttal evidence, but he did not appear. May his action now be dismissed?

No, because his absence amounts merely to a waiver of the presentation of his rebuttal evidence. He already produced his evidence in chief, which will be the basis of that judgment.


2nd Ground: Failure of plaintiff  to prosecute 
his action for an unreasonable period of time

How long a period of time should elapse following the filing of the complaint in order that the inaction of the plaintiff to prosecute it may be considered an inaction for an unreasonably long period of time?

There is no fix period considered as reasonable. Each case must have to be determined according to the peculiar circumstances of the case. 


3rd Ground: Failure of the plaintiff  to comply 
with the Rules of Court or any order of the court

Can the court dismiss a case motu proprio?

As a general rule, the court cannot dismiss a case upon its own initiative because the grounds for dismissal are waivable. If the defendant fails to move for dismissal, he is waiving the defect.


What are the exceptions? When may the court dismiss a case motu proprio?

The following are the instances when the court may dismiss a case motu proprio:
  1. When the plaintiff fails to comply with the Rules of Court or any order of the court (Rule 17, Sec. 3)
  2. When on its face, the complaint shows that the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter;
  3. When there is litis pendencia;
  4. When there is res judicata;
  5. When the action has prescribed;

Example: 

Under the rule, where an action or defense is placed in an actionable document, a copy of that document must always be attached to the pleading or the text of the document should be quoted verbatim in the pleading without the necessity of attaching to the pleading a copy thereof or an action based on an actionable documents.

When there is no compliance with this rule such that neither is the text of the document quoted in the pleading nor a copy of the document is attached to the pleading, this is a plain violation of the rule on actionable documents. So, under Sec. 3 of Rule 17, this failure of the plaintiff to comply with the order of the court may give rise to dismissal.

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