Zuniga-Santos vs Santos-Gran et al GR. No. 197380, October 8, 2014

Facts:

Petitioner Eliza Zuñiga-Santos filed a Complaint for annulment of sale and revocation of title against respondents and the Register of Deeds of Marikina City before the RTC. In her Amended Complaint, petitioner alleged, among others, that she was the registered owner of three (3) parcels of land located in the Municipality of Montalban, Province of Rizal, prior to their transfer in the name of private respondent Gran;  she has a second husband by the name of Lamberto C. Santos (Lamberto), with whom she did not have any children; she was forced to take care of Lamberto’s alleged daughter, Gran, whose birth certificate was forged to make it appear that the latter was petitioner’s daughter;  pursuant to void and voidable documents, i.e., a Deed of Sale, Lamberto succeeded in transferring the subject properties in favor of and in the name of Gran; despite diligent efforts, said Deed of Sale could not be located; Accordingly, petitioner prayed, inter alia, that Gran surrender to her the subject properties and pay damages, including costs of suit.

For her part, Gran filed a Motion to Dismiss, contending, inter alia, that the Amended Complaint failed to state a cause of action as the void and voidable documents sought to be nullified were not properly identified nor the substance thereof set forth, thus, precluding the RTC from rendering a valid judgment in accordance with the prayer to surrender the subject properties.

The RTC granted Gran’s motion and dismissed the Amended Complaint for its failure to state a cause of action, considering that the deed of sale sought to be nullified – an “essential and indispensable part of [petitioner’s] cause of action” – was not attached. Dissatisfied, petitioner elevated the matter to the CA.

The CA sustained the dismissal of petitioner’s Amended Complaint but on the ground of insufficiency of factual basis.

Aggrieved, petitioner moved for reconsideration, the CA denied petitioner’s motion, Hence, the instant petition.

Issue:

Whether the CA correctly denied the petition of reason of Lack of cause of action.

Held:

No,  a failure to state a cause of action which is provided in Sec. 1(g) of Rule 16. This is a matter of insufficiency of the pleading. Sec. 5 of Rule 10, which was also included as the last mode for raising the issue to the court, refers to the situation where the evidence does not prove a cause of action. This is, therefore, a matter of insufficiency of evidence. Failure to state a cause of action is different from failure to prove a cause of action. The remedy in the first is to move for dismissal of the pleading, while the remedy in the second is to demur to the evidence, hence reference to Sec. 5 of Rule 10 has been eliminated in this section. The procedure would consequently be to require the pleading to state a cause of action, by timely objection to its deficiency; or, at the trial, to file a demurrer to evidence, if such motion is warranted.

A complaint states a cause of action if it sufficiently avers the existence of the three (3) essential elements of a cause of action, namely: (a) a right in favor of the plaintiff by whatever means and under whatever law it arises or is created; (b) an obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right; and (c) an act or omission on the part of the named defendant violative of the right of the plaintiff or constituting a breach of the obligation of defendant to the plaintiff for which the latter may maintain an action for recovery of damages.

A judicious examination of petitioner’s Amended Complaint readily shows its failure to sufficiently state a cause of action. Contrary to the findings of the CA, the allegations therein do not proffer ultimate facts which would warrant an action for nullification of the sale and recovery of the properties in controversy, hence, rendering the same dismissible.

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