legal standing

SICI vs Cuenca (G.R. No. 173297 March 6, 2013)

Stronghold Insurance Company Inc. vs Cuenca
G.R. No. 173297 March 6, 2013

Facts: On January 19, 1998, Marañon filed a complaint in the RTC against the Cuencas for the collection of a sum of money and damages. His complaint, docketed as Civil Case No. 98-023, included an application for the issuance of a writ of preliminary attachment. On January 26, 1998, the RTC granted the application for the issuance of the writ of preliminary attachment conditioned upon the posting of a bond of P1,000,000.00 executed in favor of the Cuencas. Less than a month later, Marañon amended the complaint to implead Tayactac as a defendant. On February 11, 1998, Marañon posted SICI Bond No. 68427 JCL (4) No. 02370 in the amount of P1,000,000.00 issued by Stronghold Insurance. Two days later, the RTC issued the writ of preliminary attachment. The sheriff served the writ, the summons and a copy of the complaint on the Cuencas on the same day. The service of the writ, summons and copy of the complaint were made on Tayactac on February 16, 1998.

Issue: Whether or not the respondents have the legal standing to sue petitioner for the recovery of the attached properties and damages.

Held: No. To ensure the observance of the mandate of the Constitution, Section 2, Rule 3 of the Rules of Court requires that unless otherwise authorized by law or the Rules of Court every action must be prosecuted or defended in the name of the real party in interest. Under the same rule, a real party in interest is one who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit, or one who is entitled to the avails of the suit. Accordingly, a person , to be a real party in interest in whose name an action must be prosecuted, should appear to be the present real owner of the right sought to be enforced, that is, his interest must be a present substantial interest, not a mere expectancy, or a future, contingent, subordinate, or consequential interest.

Where the plaintiff is not the real party in interest, the ground for the motion to dismiss is lack of cause of action. The reason for this is that the courts ought not to pass upon questions not derived from any actual controversy. Truly, a person having no material interest to protect cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the court as the plaintiff in an action. Nor does a court acquire jurisdiction over a case where the real party in interest is not present or impleaded.

The purposes of the requirement for the real party in interest prosecuting or defending an action at law are: (a) to prevent the prosecution of actions by persons without any right, title or interest in the case; (b) to require that the actual party entitled to legal relief be the one to prosecute the action; (c) to avoid a multiplicity of suits; and (d) to discourage litigation and keep it within certain bounds, pursuant to sound public policy. Indeed, considering that all civil actions must be based on a cause of action, defined as the act or omission by which a party violates the right of another, the former as the defendant must be allowed to insist upon being opposed by the real party in interest so that he is protected from further suits regarding the same claim. Under this rationale, the requirement benefits the defendant because “the defendant can insist upon a plaintiff who will afford him a setup providing good res judicata protection if the struggle is carried through on the merits to the end.”

The rule on real party in interest ensures, therefore, that the party with the legal right to sue brings the action, and this interest ends when a judgment involving the nominal plaintiff will protect the defendant from a subsequent identical action. Such a rule is intended to bring before the court the party rightfully interested in the litigation so that only real controversies will be presented and the judgment, when entered, will be binding and conclusive and the defendant will be saved from further harassment and vexation at the hands of other claimants to the same demand.

But the real party in interest need not be the person who ultimately will benefit from the successful prosecution of the action. Hence, to aid itself in the proper identification of the real party in interest, the court should first ascertain the nature of the substantive right being asserted, and then must determine whether the party asserting that right is recognized as the real party in interest under the rules of procedure. Truly, that a party stands to gain from the litigation is not necessarily controlling.

Given the separate and distinct legal personality of Arc Cuisine, Inc., the Cuenca’s and Tayactac lacked the legal personality to claim the damages sustained from the levy of the former’s properties. According to Asset Privatization Trust v. Court of Appeals,  even when the foreclosure on the assets of the corporation was wrongful and done in bad faith the stockholders had no standing to recover for themselves moral damages; otherwise, they would be appropriating and distributing part of the corporation’s assets prior to the dissolution of the corporation and the liquidation of its debts and liabilities. Moreover, in Evangelista v. Santos, the Court, resolving whether or not the minority stockholders had the right to bring an action for damages against the principal officers of the corporation for their own benefit.