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What is the extent of relief to be awarded in the judgment by default?


(d) Extent of relief to be awarded. — A judgment rendered against a party in default shall not exceed the amount or be different in kind from that prayed for nor award unliquidated damages. (Sec. 3, Rule 9, Rules of Court)


Are there limitations on the judgment that the court may render where the defendant is declared in default?

Yes. The limitations are:
  1. The judgment cannot award an amount in excess of what was prayed for in complaint;
  2. The judgment cannot be different in kind from that prayed for in the complaint.
  3. The judgment cannot award unliquidated damages.

● If the defendant filed his answer, the judgment may be different from what has been prayed provided that judgment is sustained by the evidence.

Example: A filed a damage suit against B for 1M. B filed his Answer. During the trial, the evidence of the plaintiff shows a right to recover 1.5M. May the court award A 1.5M? Yes.

But suppose B did not file an Answer and was declared in default. Can A recover 1.5M? No. The court has no authority to grant the latter amount despite the evidence. This is because under the Rules, "A judgment rendered against a party in default shall not exceed the amount or be different in kind from that prayed for nor award unliquidated damages" (Sec. 3[d], Rule 9, Rules of Court). 


Mangelen vs. Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 88954, October 29, 1992

Section 5, Rule 18 [now Sec. 3(c), Rule 9] of the Rules of Court provides that judgment entered against a party in default shall not exceed the amount or be different in kind from that prayed for. Consequently, an award of exemplary damages should not have been made since it was not even prayed for. Besides, the complaint is for beach of contract. Exemplary damages may only be awarded therein if private respondents acted in a wanton, fraudulent, reckless, oppressive or malevolent manner. There is no finding whatsoever on the matter.

There is a difference between a judgment against a defendant based on evidence presented ex-parte pursuant to a default order and one based on evidence presented ex-parte and against a defendant who had filed an answer but who failed to appear at the hearing. In the former, section 5 of Rule 18 provides that the judgment against the defendant should not exceed the amount or to be different in kind from that prayed for. In the latter, however, the award may exceed the amount or be different in kind from the prayed for. Read: Mangelen vs. Court of Appeals Case Digest 


Pascua vs. Florendo
G.R. No. L-39047, April 30, 1985

A defaulted defendant is not actually thrown out of court. While in a sense it may be said that by defaulting he leaves himself at the mercy of the court, the rules see to it that any judgment against him must be in accordance with law. The evidence to support the plaintiff's cause is, of course, presented in his absence, but the court is not supposed to admit that which is basically incompetent. Although the defendant would not be in a position to object, elementary justice requires that only legal evidence should be considered against him. If the evidence presented should not be sufficient to justify a judgment for the plaintiff, the complaint must be dismissed. And if an unfavorable judgment should be justifiable, it cannot exceed in amount or be different in kind from what is prayed for in the complaint.


Diona vs. Balangue
G.R. No. 173559, January 7, 2013

It is settled that courts cannot grant a relief not prayed for in the pleadings or in excess of what is being sought by the party. They cannot also grant a relief without first ascertaining the evidence presented in support thereof. Due process considerations require that judgments must conform to and be supported by the pleadings and evidence presented in court. In Development Bank of the Philippines v. Teston, this Court expounded that:

Due process considerations justify this requirement. It is improper to enter an order which exceeds the scope of relief sought by the pleadings, absent notice which affords the opposing party an opportunity to be heard with respect to the proposed relief. The fundamental purpose of the requirement that allegations of a complaint must provide the measure of recovery is to prevent surprise to the defendant.

Notably, the Rules is even more strict in safeguarding the right to due process of a defendant who was declared in default than of a defendant who participated in trial. For instance, amendment to conform to the evidence presented during trial is allowed the parties under the Rules. But the same is not feasible when the defendant is declared in default because Section 3(d), Rule 9 of the Rules of Court comes into play and limits the relief that may be granted by the courts to what has been prayed for in the Complaint. It provides:

(d) Extent of relief to be awarded. – A judgment rendered against a party in default shall not exceed the amount or be different in kind from that prayed for nor award unliquidated damages.

The raison d’être in limiting the extent of relief that may be granted is that it cannot be presumed that the defendant would not file an Answer and allow himself to be declared in default had he known that the plaintiff will be accorded a relief greater than or different in kind from that sought in the Complaint. No doubt, the reason behind Section 3(d), Rule 9 of the Rules of Court is to safeguard defendant’s right to due process against unforeseen and arbitrarily issued judgment. This, to the mind of this Court, is akin to the very essence of due process. It embodies "the sporting idea of fair play" and forbids the grant of relief on matters where the defendant was not given the opportunity to be heard thereon.

In the case at bench, the award of 5% monthly interest rate is not supported both by the allegations in the pleadings and the evidence on record. The Real Estate Mortgage executed by the parties does not include any provision on interest. When petitioner filed her Complaint before the RTC, she alleged that respondents borrowed from her "the sum of FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (₱45,000.00), with interest thereon at the rate of 12% per annum" and sought payment thereof. She did not allege or pray for the disputed 5% monthly interest. Neither did she present evidence nor testified thereon. Clearly, the RTC’s award of 5% monthly interest or 60% per annum lacks basis and disregards due process. It violated the due process requirement because respondents were not informed of the possibility that the RTC may award 5% monthly interest. They were deprived of reasonable opportunity to refute and present controverting evidence as they were made to believe that the complainant petitioner was seeking for what she merely stated in her Complaint.

Neither can the grant of the 5% monthly interest be considered subsumed by petitioner’s general prayer for "other reliefs and remedies just and equitable under the premises x x x." To repeat, the court’s grant of relief is limited only to what has been prayed for in the Complaint or related thereto, supported by evidence, and covered by the party’s cause of action. Besides, even assuming that the awarded 5% monthly or 60% per annum interest was properly alleged and proven during trial, the same remains unconscionably excessive and ought to be equitably reduced in accordance with applicable jurisprudence.

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