Remedial Law

Santo Tomas University Hospital v. Surla, et al., G.R. No. 129718, August 17, 1998 Certification against Forum Shopping, Compulsory Counterclaim

FACTS:

Respondent spouses filed a complaint for damages against petitioner Santo Tomas University Hospital alleging that their son, Emmanuel Cesar Surla, while confined at the said hospital for having been born prematurely, had accidentally fallen from his incubator, possibly causing serious harm on the child. 

Petitioner hospital filed its Answer with “Compulsory Counterclaim” asserting that respondents still owed to it the amount of P82,632.10 representing hospital bills for Emmanuel’s confinement at the hospital and making a claim for moral and exemplary damages, plus attorney’s fees, by reason of the supposed unfounded and malicious suit filed against it.

Respondent sought, inter alia, the dismissal of petitioner’s counterclaim for its non-compliance with the requirement that a complaint and other initiatory pleadings, such as a counterclaim, cross-claim, third (fourt, etc.) party complaint, be accompanied with a certificate of non-forum shopping.

The trial court dismissed petitioner’s counterclaim.

Petitioner forthwith elevated the matter to the CA by way of a special civil action for certiorari.

The CA dismissed the petition for certiorari.

Hence, this petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not a compulsory counterclaim pleaded in an Answer be dismissed on the ground of a failure to accompany it with a certificate of non-forum shopping.

RULING:

The petition is partly meritorious.

The object of procedural law is not to cause an undue protraction of the litigation, but to facilitate the adjudication of conflicting claims and to serve, rather than to defeat, the ends of justice.  [See Continental Leaf Tobacco (Phil.) Inc. vs. Intermediate Appellate Court, 140 SCRA 269]

During the pendency of this case, this Court issued Admin. Circular No. 04-94 which provides for the requirements, in addition to those in pertinent provisions of the Rules of Court and existing circulars, to be complied with in the filing of complaints, petitions, applications or other initiatory pleadings in all courts.

The second paragraph thereof states:

“The complaint and other initiatory pleadings referred to and subject of this Circular are the original civil complaint, counterclaim, cross-claim third (fourth, etc.) party complaint or complaint-in-intervention, petition, or application wherein a party asserts his claim for relief.”

Section 5, Rule 8 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure, i.e., that the violation of the anti-forum shopping rule “shall not be curable by mere amendment x x x but shall be cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice,” being predicated on the applicability of the need for a certification against forum shopping, obviously does not include a claim which cannot be independently set up.

It should not be too difficult to sustain the view that the circular in question has not, in fact, been contemplated to include a kind of claim which, by its very nature as being auxiliary to the proceedings in the suit and as deriving its substantive and jurisdictional support therefrom, can only be appropriately pleaded in the answer and not remain outstanding for independent resolution except by the court where the main case pends. 

Prescinding from the foregoing, the proviso in the second paragraph of Section 5, Rule 8 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure, i.e., that the violation of the anti-forum shopping rule “shall not be curable by mere amendment x x x but shall be cause for the dismissal of the case without prejudice,” being predicated on the applicability of the need for a certification against forum shopping, obviously does not include a claim which cannot be independently set up.

The appealed decision is hereby modified in that the claim for moral, exemplary damages and attorney’s fees of petitioner is ordered reinstated.

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