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G.R. No. L-46179 – 81 SCRA 472 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Double Recovery of Civil Liability
In September 1975, Maximo Borilla was driving a jeep when he hit Arsenio Virata thereby causing the latter’s death. The heirs of Virata sued Borilla through an action for homicide through reckless imprudence in the Court of First Instance of Rizal. The lawyer for the heirs reserved their right to file a separate civil action. The lawyer later withdrew said motion. But in June 1976, pending the criminal case, the Viratas again reserved their right to file a separate civil action. Borilla was eventually acquitted as it was ruled that what happened was a mere accident. The heirs of Virata then sued Borilla and Victorio Ochoa (the owner of the jeep and employer of Borilla) for damages based on quasi delict. Ochoa assailed the civil suit alleging that Borilla was already acquitted and that the Virata’s were merely trying to recover damages twice. The lower court agreed with Ochoa and dismissed the civil suit.
ISSUE: Whether or not the heirs of Virata may file a separate civil suit.
HELD: Yes. It is settled that in negligence cases the aggrieved parties may choose between an action under the Revised Penal Code or of quasi-delict under Article 2176 of the Civil Code of the Philippines. What is prohibited by Article 2177 of the Civil Code of the Philippines is to recover twice for the same negligent act. Therefore, under the proposed Article 2177, acquittal from an accusation of criminal negligence, whether on reasonable doubt or not, shall not be a bar to a subsequent civil action, not for civil liability arising from criminal negligence, but for damages due to a quasi-delict or ‘culpa aquiliana’. But said article forestalls a double recovery.