Friday, February 3, 2012

Solidary liability of co-debtors

"x x x.

As the employer of Igdanis, Villaruz was impleaded by herein respondents in the lower court and was found to be solidarily liable with his other co-defendants. Absent an appeal before this Court assailing the ruling of the lower court and the CA, Villaruz remains to be solidarily liable with petitioner and co-defendants Rubin Uy and Dortina Uy. Thus, petitioner may only claim contribution from him in accordance with Article 1217 of the Civil Code, and not by virtue of its hauling contract, in the event that respondents decide to proceed against petitioner alone for the satisfaction of judgment. Art. 1217 states:

Payment made by one of the solidary debtors extinguishes the obligation. If two or more solidary debtors offer to pay, the creditor may choose which offer to accept.

He who made the payment may claim from his co-debtors only the share which corresponds to each, with the interest for the payment already made. If the payment is made before the debt is due, no interest for the intervening period may be demanded. (Emphasis supplied)

The share, meanwhile, of solidary debtors is contained in Art. 1208, to wit:

If from the law, or the nature of the wording of the obligations to which the preceding article refers the contrary does not appear, the credit of debt shall be presumed to be divided into as many equal shares as there are creditors or debtors, the credits or debts being considered distinct from one another, subject to the Rules of Court governing the multiplicity of suits. (Emphasis supplied)

To put it simply, based on the ruling of the lower courts, there are four (4) persons who are liable to pay damages to respondents. The latter may proceed against any one of the solidary debtors or some or all of them simultaneously, pursuant to Article 1216 of the Civil Code. These solidary debtors are petitioner Petron, the hauler Villaruz, the operator Dortina Uy and the dealer Rubin Uy. To determine the liability of each defendant to one another, the amount of damages shall be divided by four, representing the share of each defendant. Supposedly, under the hauling contract, petitioner may require Villaruz to indemnify it for its share. However, because it was not able to maintain the cross-claim filed against him, it shall be liable for its own share under Article 1208 and can no longer seek indemnification or subrogation from him under its dismissed cross-claim. Petitioner may not pursue its cross-claim against Rubin Uy and Dortina Uy, because the cross-claims against them were also dismissed; moreover, they were all equally liable for the conflagration as discussed herein.

x x x."