Add TAGS to your cases to easily locate them or to build your SYLLABUS.
Please SIGN IN to use this feature.
Highlight text as FACTS, ISSUES, RULING, PRINCIPLES to generate case DIGESTS and REVIEWERS.
Please LOGIN use this feature.
Show printable version with highlights

[ GR No. 6485, Mar 17, 1911 ]



19 Phil. 104

[ G. R. No. 6485, March 17, 1911 ]




This is an appeal from a judgment of the Court of First Instance of the city of Manila, Hon.  Simplicio del Rosario presiding, in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant for the sum of P12,218.51, with costs.

This is an action to recover the sum of P12,218.51, premiums paid by the plaintiff upon insurance policies covering two vessels belonging to the defendant.

The two commercial houses parties to this  action had sustained intimate commercial relations for nine years prior to the commencement of this action, beginning in the year 1900.  During that  time, the  plaintiff, acting for and on behalf of the defendant, obtained from an insurance company in Paris, France, insurance on two vessels known as Serantes and Comillas, owned by the defendant.  The insurance was first obtained in the year 1900.  The  plaintiff secured the insurance  oh the two ships aforesaid  through the intervention of its agents in Paris, Messrs. Movellan & Angulo. The plaintiff continued to keep  said  vessels insured on behalf of the defendant, causing the policies to be renewed each year  for nine years.   The insurance premiums were paid by the plaintiff each year up to and including a portion of the year  1909, the sums so paid being charged by the plaintiff on its books against the  defendant in its  current account.  In the month of June of that year the plaintiff began  an action against the defendant for the recovery of the amount due upon its current account with the defendant, no reference being made in the complaint in that action to the  sum sued for in the action at bar.  What the status of that action is we do not know.   Later, and on the 18th of March,  1910, the plaintiff began this action for the recovery of premiums paid during the years 1907, 1908, and 1909.  During these three years one of the vessels in question, the Serantes, was insured in the. name of the plaintiff.

The appellant  raises six questions on this appeal, asserting (1) that the  vessel Serantes, having been insured in the name  of Gutierrez Hermanos, the defendant is not chargeable with the payment of the insurance premiums, although it is admitted that it is the owner of the vessel; (2)  that having paid the said insurance premiums after the plaintiff had  closed its current account with the defendant, such payments can not be said to have been made on behalf of the defendant, for the. reason  that  the  closing of the account and the commencement of an action thereon severed all relations  of every kind between the parties and the plaintiff had no authority to act thereafter for the defendant; (3)  that at the time of the payment by  the plaintiff of the insurance premiums in controversy the insurance-company to which such premiums were paid was owing to the defendant the sum of P8,000 upon a contract of insurance for the  payment of repairs made by the defendant on said vessels, which repairs were covered by said policies of insurance, and  that the plaintiff having paid, without protest or objection of any kind, said premiums while  the claim of defendant for said sum was still pending and unsettled, such act of the plaintiff had precluded the defendant from recovering said sum from such insurance company;  (4)  that the plaintiff was not acting as  the  agent  of the defendant in securing the insurance for which the premiums in controversy  were paid; (5)  that the plaintiff,  having already brought an action upon its account current in which should appear the  premiums in controversy and  all  of the other premiums paid prior to the  year 1909,  the plaintiff can not now maintain a separate action upon the theory that it was acting as the commission agent of the defendant;  and (6) that the premiums in  controversy  paid  by  the  plaintiff resulted in no benefit to the defendant.

Relative to the first Question, it is undoubted from the proofs that the vessel Sermies was insured in the  name of the plaintiff, while the Comillas was insured in the  name of the defendant.   It appears, however,  from the letters of the defendant to the plaintiff and by the testimony of Tomas Oria, manager of the defendant company, that the  plaintiff in insuring the Serantes acted  merely as  the commercial agent  of the defendant and under its orders; that all of the payments made by the plaintiff of insurance premiums prior to the 1st day of June, 1909, were charged to the defendant in the account current upon the books of the plaintiff; that the plaintiff had charged no commission; and that all of the damages which had occurred to the vessels prior to that time had been paid by the insurance company to the defendant, notwithstanding the fact that the Serantes was insured in the name of the plaintiff.  Moreover, we find no terms in the insurance policy which forbid the insurance of the vessel in the name of the plaintiff.  Furthermore, it appears from the correspondence between the defendant and the insurance company, through  Movellan & Angulo  of Paris, that, although it was the fact that the vessel Serantes was insured in the name of  the plaintiff, instead of the defendant, a fact known, of course, to the insurance company, the latter, nevertheless, recognized its responsibility to the defendant upon the policy covering the said ship.

It  should be  further noted  that, in the correspondence passing between the plaintiff and the defendant, it is continually recognized that the insurance of the vessel Serantes, as well as the Camillas, was made for and on  behalf and in benefit  of  the defendant;   In  that correspondence  the plaintiff was  continually asking defendant for funds with which to pay the insurance premiums on said vessel, as well as on the Comillas.   (Art. 246, Commercial Code and art. 717, Civil Code.)

Relative to  the second question raised by the  appellant, namely, that the plaintiff having closed the current account with  the defendant prior to  the payment of the insurance premiums  which are the  subject-matter of this action, it could not, thereafter, begin a separate action to recover for the payment of said premiums,  it appears that  the objection urged in this question is directed rather  at  a  method of procedure than to a question of  substantive  law.  From this point of view  the defendant has some cause for complaint. Under the practice prevailing in the Islands under the Code of  Civil Procedure, the plaintiff  should have  brought one action instead of two, combining its claim upon the account current with  its claim for the payment of the  insurance premiums involved in this suit.  The payment  of the  insurance premiums in controversy  having been made after the commencement of the action upon the  account-current, the plaintiff, instead of beginning a separate action for the recovery of said premiums, would' have followed a better practice if it had amended its complaint in  the other action or added thereto a supplementary complaint.  It was not, however, as a  matter of law, obliged to do this, but it could have been forced to do so by  the defendant if  it had taken the proper steps.  It is undoubted that it would have been the duty of the trial court, upon proper motion  of the defendant, to consolidate the two actions into one.  The defendant,  however, not having  taken any  steps  whatever to accomplish  this result, can  not  be heard to  raise that question in the manner in which it seeks to raise it.

As  to the second and fourth  questions raised by the appellant, little needs to be said.   The whole case as presented, both by the oral testimony and the exhibits,  demonstrates beyond shadow of doubt that the plaintiff was acting as the agent  of the defendant in placing the  insurance upon the vessels in question and that such act redounded to its benefit. The idea presented  in argument of counsel for appellant, that all relations were broken  off and terminated by the commencement of the action upon the account current by the plaintiff in March, 1909, and that, therefore, the plaintiff could do nothing whatever on behalf of the defendant thereafter, wholly loses its force when we observe that, in reality, the plaintiff did not  do anything on behalf of the defendant after that  time.   What it did  and all it did was to fulfill a contract  which it  had made with the insurance company prior to the beginning of that action.  The  plaintiff had secured the insurance of  the two  vessels during the years 1907, 1908, and 1909, and had agreed to pay the insurance company the premiums thereon.  The  three contracts for those years had been made by the plaintiff and it had become liable to fulfill the same on its part prior to the commencement of the action on the 30th  of March, 1909.  The  payment thereafter of the insurance premiums  for those three years is no proof that the  plaintiff was still exercising a relation  which  existed after the  commencement  of  that action, but indicates simply that it was completing an obligation  which it had made when that relation  was admittedly in force.

As to the third question raised by the appellant, involving the proposition  that the  plaintiff  had  paid the insurance premiums at a time when there was pending between the defendant and the insurance company a claim for P8,000 on account of repairs made to said vessels, and that, therefore, the payment  by the plaintiff resulted in an injury rather than a benefit to the defendant, it need only  be said that there is no  proof in the record which is sufficient to sustain the allegation that there was pending a claim between the defendant and the insurance company  for any sum which could in any way be affected by the payment of insurance premiums made by the plaintiff.   We can imagine a situation in which the objections made by the defendant in this regard would be well founded,  but there is absolutely nothing in the record upon which we can found any decision touching that question adverse to the plaintiff.

For these reasons,  we see no other course than to affirm the judgment of the learned trial court, which we hereby do, without special finding as to costs.  So ordered.

Arellano, C. J., Mapa,  Carson,  and Trent, JJ., concur.