Civil Law

United States vs Eusebio Clarin

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G.R. No. 5840 – 7 Phil. 504 – Civil Law – Partnership – Co-Partner’s Liability – Misappropriation of Partnership Funds – Losses

Criminal Law – Book II – Crimes Against Property – Estafa – Misappropriation

Sometime before 1910, Pedro Larin formed a partnership with Pedro Tarug, Eusebio Clarin and Carlos de Guzman. Larin, being the capitalist, agreed to contribute P172.00 to the partnership and the three others shall use said fund to trade mangoes. The three industrial partners bought mangoes and sell them and they earned P203.00 but they failed to give Larin’s share of the profits. Larin sued them for estafa, but the provincial fiscal filed an information only against Eusebio Clarin in which he accused him of appropriating to himself not only the P172 but also the share of the profits that belonged to Larin, amounting to P15.50. Clarin was eventually convicted.

ISSUE: Whether or not the conviction is correct.

HELD: No. The P172.00 having been received by the partnership, the business commenced and profits accrued, the action that lies with the partner who furnished the capital for the recovery of his money is not a criminal action for estafa, but a civil one arising from the partnership contract for a liquidation of the partnership and a levy on its assets if there should be any.

The then Penal Code provides that those who are guilty of estafa are those “who, to the prejudice of another, shall appropriate or misapply any money, goods, or any kind of personal property which they may have received as a deposit on commission for administration or in any other producing the obligation to deliver or return the same,” (as, for example, in commodatum, precarium, and other unilateral contracts which require the return of the same thing received) does not include money received for a partnership; otherwise the result would be that, if the partnership, instead of obtaining profits, suffered losses, as it could not be held liable civilly for the share of the capitalist partner who reserved the ownership of the money brought in by him, it would have to answer to the charge of estafa, for which it would be sufficient to argue that the partnership had received the money under obligation to return it.

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