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Casupanan vs. Laroya Case Digest


● An order dismissing an action without prejudice is not appealable. The remedy of the aggrieved party is to file a special civil action under Rule 65. 

● The offended party can file two separate suits for the same act or omission. The first a criminal case where the civil action to recover civil liability ex-delicto is deemed instituted, and the other a civil case for quasi-delict - without violating the rule on non-forum shopping. The two cases can proceed simultaneously and independently of each other. The commencement or prosecution of the criminal action will not suspend the civil action for quasi-delict. The only limitation is that the offended party cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant.


● The accused can file a civil action for quasi-delict for the same act or omission he is accused of in the criminal case. 


Facts: 

Two vehicles, one driven by Laroya and the other owned by Capitulo and driven by Casupanan, figured in an accident. Laroya filed a criminal case against Casupanan for reckless imprudence resulting in damage toproperty. On the other hand, Casupanan and Capitulo filed a civil case against Laroya for quasi-delict. When the civil case was filed, the criminal case was then at its preliminary investigation stage. Laroya filed a motion to dismiss the civil case on the ground of forum-shopping considering the pendency of the criminal case. The MCTC granted the motion and dismiss the civil case. Casupanan and Capitulo, filed a motion for reconsideration. They insisted that the civil case is a separate civil action which can proceed independently of the criminal case. The MR was denied. Hence, they filed a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 before the RTC.

The RTC ruled that the order of dismissal issued by the MCTC is a final order which disposes of the case and therefore the proper remedy should have been an appeal. It further held that a special civil action for certiorari is not a substitute for a lost appeal. Finally, it declared that even on the premise that the MCTC erred in dismissing the civil case, such error is a pure error of judgment and not an abuse of discretion. 


Issues:

1. Was the petition for certiorari a proper remedy?

2. Whether an accused in a pending criminal case for reckless imprudence can validly file, simultaneously and independently, a separate civil action for quasi-delict against the private complainant in the criminal case. Was there a forum-shopping?


Held:

1. Yes. The MCTC dismissed the civil action for quasi-delict on the ground of forum-shopping under Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 04-94. The MCTC did not state in its order of dismissal that the dismissal was with prejudice. Under the Administrative Circular, the order of dismissal is without prejudice to refiling the complaint, unless the order of dismissal expressly states it is with prejudice. Absent a declaration that the dismissal is with prejudice, the same is deemed without prejudice. Thus, the MCTCs dismissal, being silent on the matter, is a dismissal without prejudice.

Section 1 of Rule 41 provides that an order dismissing an action without prejudice is not appealable. The remedy of the aggrieved party is to file a special civil action under Rule 65. Section 1 of Rule 41 expressly states that where the judgment or final order is not appealable, the aggrieved party may file an appropriate special civil action under Rule 65. Clearly, the Capas RTCs order dismissing the petition for certiorari, on the ground that the proper remedy is an ordinary appeal, is erroneous.


2. The essence of forum-shopping is the filing of multiple suits involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, to secure a favorable judgment. Forum-shopping is present when in the two or more cases pending, there is identity of parties, rights of action and reliefs sought. However, there is no forum-shopping in the instant case because the law and the rules expressly allow the filing of a separate civil action which can proceed independently of the criminal action.

Laroya filed the criminal case for reckless imprudence resulting in damage to property based on the Revised Penal Code while Casupanan and Capitulo filed the civil action for damages based on Article 2176 of the Civil Code. Although these two actions arose from the same act or omission, they have different causes of action. The criminal case is based on culpa criminal punishable under the Revised Penal Code while the civil case is based on culpa aquiliana actionable under Articles 2176 and 2177 of the Civil Code.

Any aggrieved person can invoke these articles provided he proves, by preponderance of evidence, that he has suffered damage because of the fault or negligence of another. Either the private complainant or the accused can file a separate civil action under these articles. There is nothing in the law or rules that state only the private complainant in a criminal case may invoke these articles.

Moreover, paragraph 6, Section 1, Rule 111 of the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure (2000 Rules for brevity) expressly requires the accused to litigate his counterclaim in a separate civil action, to wit:

SECTION 1. Institution of criminal and civil actions. (a) x x x.

No counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party complaint may be filed by the accused in the criminal case, but any cause of action which could have been the subject thereof may be litigated in a separate civil action. (Emphasis supplied)

Since the present Rules require the accused in a criminal action to file his counterclaim in a separate civil action, there can be no forum-shopping if the accused files such separate civil action.

Conclusion

Under Section 1 of the present Rule 111, the independent civil action in Articles 32, 33, 34 and 2176 of the Civil Code is not deemed instituted with the criminal action but may be filed separately by the offended party even without reservation. The commencement of the criminal action does not suspend the prosecution of the independent civil action under these articles of the Civil Code. The suspension in Section 2 of the present Rule 111 refers only to the civil action arising from the crime, if such civil action is reserved or filed before the commencement of the criminal action.

Thus, the offended party can file two separate suits for the same act or omission. The first a criminal case where the civil action to recover civil liability ex-delicto is deemed instituted, and the other a civil case for quasi-delict - without violating the rule on non-forum shopping. The two cases can proceed simultaneously and independently of each other. The commencement or prosecution of the criminal action will not suspend the civil action for quasi-delict. The only limitation is that the offended party cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the defendant. In most cases, the offended party will have no reason to file a second civil action since he cannot recover damages twice for the same act or omission of the accused. In some instances, the accused may be insolvent, necessitating the filing of another case against his employer or guardians.

Similarly, the accused can file a civil action for quasi-delict for the same act or omission he is accused of in the criminal case. This is expressly allowed in paragraph 6, Section 1 of the present Rule 111 which states that the counterclaim of the accused may be litigated in a separate civil action. This is only fair for two reasons. First, the accused is prohibited from setting up any counterclaim in the civil aspect that is deemed instituted in the criminal case. The accused is therefore forced to litigate separately his counterclaim against the offended party. If the accused does not file a separate civil action for quasi-delict, the prescriptive period may set in since the period continues to run until the civil action for quasi-delict is filed.

Second, the accused, who is presumed innocent, has a right to invoke Article 2177 of the Civil Code, in the same way that the offended party can avail of this remedy which is independent of the criminal action. To disallow the accused from filing a separate civil action for quasi-delict, while refusing to recognize his counterclaim in the criminal case, is to deny him due process of law, access to the courts, and equal protection of the law.

Thus, the civil action based on quasi-delict filed separately by Casupanan and Capitulo is proper. The order of dismissal by the MCTC of Civil Case No. 2089 on the ground of forum-shopping is erroneous.  (Casupanan vs. Laroya, G.R. No. 145391, August 26, 2002)

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