Remedial Law

People’s General Insurance Corporation v. Edgardo Guansing And Eduardo Lizaso Service of Summons, Jurisdiction [J. LEONEN]

FACTS:

Lizaso, Guansing’s employee, was driving Guansing’s truck, when he hit the rear portion of Yokohama’s Isuzu Crosswind. The strong impact caused the Crosswind to hit other vehicles, rendering it beyond repair.

Yokohama filed a total loss claim under her insurance policy against People’s General Insurance Corporation (PGIC), which paid the full amount of P907,800.00 as settlement. Thus, PGIC claimed to have been subrogated to all the rights and interests of Yokohama against Guansing.

PGIC sought reimbursement of the total amount paid to Yokohama. 

Despite repeated demands, Guansing failed to reimburse the amount claimed, prompting PGIC to file a Complaint for a sum of money and damages against Guansing and Lizaso.

The sheriff served the summons on Guansing’s brother, Reynaldo Guansing. The sheriff’s return did not explain why summons was served on his brother instead of Guansing.

Guansing filed a Motion to Dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction over his person, alleging that he did not personally receive the summons.

The RTC denied the Motion to Dismiss for lack of merit.

After the denial of his Motion for Reconsideration, Guansing filed a one (1)-page Answer containing a general denial of the material allegations and causes of action in PGIC’s Complaint. He also reiterated that the RTC had no jurisdiction over his person.

PGIC filed a Motion to Render Judgment on the Pleadings, which was granted by the RTC.

The RTC ruled against Guansing, and ordered him to pay PGIC the remaining cost of the Crosswind, attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.

The trial court denied Guansing’s Motion for Reconsideration.

On appeal, the CA ruled in favor of Guansing and remanded the case to the RTC. 

The CA held that the RTC did not acquire jurisdiction over him because summons was improperly served on his brother. 

Moreover, the sheriff did not provide an explanation on why the summons was not personally served upon him. 

Hence this Petition for Review on Certiorari filed by PGIC.

ISSUE:

  • Whether or not the Regional Trial Court acquired jurisdiction over the person of respondent Edgardo Guansing through service of summons.
  • Whether or not respondent Edgardo Guansing, in filing his Answer and other subsequent pleadings, voluntarily submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court.

RULING:

I.

As a general rule, personal service is the preferred mode of service of summons. Substituted service is the exception to this general rule. 

For the sheriff to avail of substituted service, there must be a detailed enumeration of the sheriffs actions showing that a defendant cannot be served despite diligent and reasonable efforts. These details are contained in the sheriff’s return. 

Courts may allow substituted service based on what the sheriff’s return contains.

Failure to serve summons means that the court did not acquire jurisdiction over the person of the defendant.

Rule 14, Sections 6 and 7 of the Rules of Court provide: 

Section 6. Service in person on defendant. – Whenever practicable, the summons shall be served by handing a copy thereof to the defendant in person, or, if he refuses to receive and sign for it, by tendering it to him. 

Section 7. Substituted service. – If, for justifiable causes, the defendant cannot be served within a reasonable time as provided in the preceding section, service may be effected (a) by leaving copies of the summons at the defendant’s residence with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or (b) by leaving the copies at defendant’s office or regular place of business with some competent person in charge thereof. This Court has consistently held that jurisdiction over a defendant is acquired upon a valid service of summons or through the defendant’s voluntary appearance in court.

Absent proper service of summons, the court cannot acquire jurisdiction over the defendant unless there is voluntary appearance. 

II.

Generally, defendants voluntarily submit to the court’s jurisdiction when they participate in the proceedings despite improper service of summons. 

By filing numerous pleadings, respondent Guansing has confirmed that notice has been effected, and that he has been adequately notified of the proceedings for him to sufficiently defend his interests. 

His filing of these pleadings amounts to voluntary appearance. He is considered to have submitted himself to the court’s jurisdiction, which is equivalent to a valid service of summons. 

Rule 14, Section 20 of the Rules of Court states: 

Section 20. Voluntary appearance. – The defendant’s voluntary appearance in the action shall be equivalent to service of summons. The inclusion in a motion to dismiss of other grounds aside from lack of jurisdiction over the person of the defendant shall not be deemed a voluntary appearance.

In Navale et al. v. Court of Appeals et al.:

Defects of summons are cured by voluntary appearance and by the filing of an answer to the complaint. 

A defendant [cannot] be permitted to speculate upon the judgment of the court by objecting to the court’s jurisdiction over its person if the judgment is adverse to it, and acceding to jurisdiction over its person if and when the judgment sustains its defense. 

Any form of appearance in court by the defendant, his authorized agent or attorney, is equivalent to service except where such appearance is precisely to object to the jurisdiction of the court over his person.

The CA erred when it ruled that the court did not acquire jurisdiction over Guansing, moreso, when it remanded the case for further proceedings with a directive for the proper service of summons. 

A decision remanding the case for further proceedings serves no purpose if the court never acquired jurisdiction over the person of the defendant in the first place.

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