Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Partial summary judgment is final judgment - G.R. No. 178925

G.R. No. 178925

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"x x x.

The issue of whether the RTC judgment is a final judgment is indeed crucial. If the judgment were not final, it would be an improper subject of an appeal. Hence, no appeal would have been perfected before the CA, and the latter would not have acquired jurisdiction over the entire case, including the motion for new trial. But more importantly, only a final judgment or order, as opposed to an interlocutory order, may be the subject of a motion for new trial.

A final judgment or order is one that finally disposes of a case, leaving nothing more for the court to do in respect thereto, such as an adjudication on the merits which, on the basis of the evidence presented at the trial, declares categorically what the rights and obligations of the parties are and which party is in the right, or a judgment or order that dismisses an action on the ground of res judicata or prescription, for instance.[32] Just like any other judgment, a summary judgment that satisfies the requirements of a final judgment will be considered as such.

A summary judgment is granted to settle expeditiously a case if, on motion of either party, there appears from the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits that no important issues of fact are involved, except the amount of damages.[33] The RTC judgment in this case fully determined the rights and obligations of the parties relative to the case for quieting of title and left no other issue unresolved, except the amount of damages. Hence, it is a final judgment.

In leaving out the determination of the amount of damages, the RTC did not remove its summary judgment from the category of final judgments. In fact, under Section 3,[34] Rule 35 of the Rules of Court, a summary judgment may not be rendered on the amount of damages, although such judgment may be rendered on the issue of the right to damages.[35]

In Jugador v. De Vera,[36] the Court distinguished between the determination of the amount of damages and the issue of the right to damages itself in case of a summary judgment. The Court elucidated on this point, thus:

[A] summary judgment may be rendered except as to the amount of damages. In other words, such judgment may be entered on the issue relating to the existence of the right to damages. Chief Justice Moran pertinently observes that “if there is any real issue as to the amount of damages, the c[o]urt, after rendering summary judgment, may proceed to assess the amount recoverable.”[37]

It is therefore reasonable to distinguish the present case from GSIS v. Philippine Village Hotel, Inc.[38] In that case, the summary judgment specifically stated that “[t]rial on the issu[e] of damages shall resume.” Evidently, there remained an unresolved issue on the right to damages. Here, the trial court, in stating that “except as to the amount of damages, a summary judgment is hereby rendered in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendants,” had, in effect, resolved all issues, including the right to

damages in favor of the plaintiffs (petitioners). What remained undetermined was only the amount of damages.

x x x."