Civil Law

Spouses Pedro and Patricia Elcano vs Reginald Hill and Marvin Hill

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77 SCRA 100 – G.R. No. L-24803 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Civil Liability from Quasi Delicts vs Civil Liability from Crimes

Reginald Hill, a minor, caused the death of Agapito Elcano (son of Pedro Elcano). Pedro and Patricia Elcano filed a criminal case against Reginald but Reginald was acquitted for lack of intent coupled with mistake. Elcano then filed a civil action against Reginald and his dad (Marvin Hill) for damages based on Article 2180 of the Civil Code. Marvin argued that the civil action is barred by his son’s acquittal in the criminal case; and that if ever, his civil liability as a parent has been extinguished by the fact that his son is already an emancipated minor by reason of his marriage.

ISSUE: Whether or not Marvin Hill may be held civilly liable under Article 2180.

HELD: Yes. The acquittal of Reginald in the criminal case does not bar the filing of a separate civil action. A separate civil action lies against the offender in a criminal act, whether or not he is criminally prosecuted and found guilty or acquitted, provided that the offended party is not allowed, if accused is actually charged also criminally, to recover damages on both scores, and would be entitled in such eventuality only to the bigger award of the two, assuming the awards made in the two cases vary. In other words, the extinction of civil liability referred to in Par. (e) of Section 3, Rule 111, refers exclusively to civil liability founded on Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, whereas the civil liability for the same act considered as a quasi-delict only and not as a crime is not extinguished even by a declaration in the criminal case that the criminal act charged has not happened or has not been committed by the accused. Briefly stated, culpa aquiliana includes voluntary and negligent acts which may be punishable by law.

While it is true that parental authority is terminated upon emancipation of the child (Article 327, Civil Code), and under Article 397, emancipation takes place “by the marriage of the minor child”, it is, however, also clear that pursuant to Article 399, emancipation by marriage of the minor is not really full or absolute. Thus “Emancipation by marriage or by voluntary concession shall terminate parental authority over the child’s person. It shall enable the minor to administer his property as though he were of age, but he cannot borrow money or alienate or encumber real property without the consent of his father or mother, or guardian. He can sue and be sued in court only with the assistance of his father, mother or guardian.” Therefore, Article 2180 is applicable to Marvin Hill – the SC however ruled since at the time of the decision, Reginald is already of age, Marvin’s liability should be subsidiary only – as a matter of equity.

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