In this article, we shall tackle what is a quasi delict or tort. The world in which we are living in is not a perfect world. It is not a utopia possessing almost perfect qualities as seen by Sir Thomas More in his 1516 book, Utopia. Despite this, justice still prevails in our society.
“For whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” – Galatians 6:7, New American Standard Bible.
A person who does good to another person will surely be rewarded and that a person who does something bad or speaks ill of somebody will surely receive his due punishment. The Bible even teaches us that whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
If a farmer sows tomato seeds, he will reap tomatoes; if he sows grape seeds, he will reap grapes. Thus, if a man performs a good deed, he will receive something good; if a man does a bad deed, he will receive something bad.
In Hinduism, it is called as karma. Same goes with our laws since a person who violates another man’s right shall be obliged to pay damages to the one he violated. In this article, we will learn more about torts and the pertinent concepts of tort law, particularly the catch-all provisions.
What is a Quasi Delict or Tort?
Acts that harm another person or his property may be referred to as quasi delicts. The quasi delicts were regarded as one of the four sources of obligation because a responsibility to pay the victim for the harm or damage produced by these acts derives from them. In the Philippine Civil Code, quasi delict is defined as:
“Whoever by act or omission causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. Such fault or negligence, if there is no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict and is governed by the provisions of this Chapter.”1
On the other hand, the word “tort” is taken directly from the French word and is a derivation of the Latin word “torquere,” meaning “to twist.” In common law, tort pertains to an unlawful violation of a private right, not created by contract, which gives rise to an action of damages.2
In Naguiat vs. NLRC,3 the Supreme Court defined tort as the violation of a right given or the omission of a duty imposed by law. Simply stated, tort is a breach of a legal duty.
Timoteo B. Aquino, in his book Torts and Damages, stated that a tort may be characterized, as follows:
(1) it is a legal wrong;4
(2) it is civil in nature;5
(3) the wrong causes damage or injury; and that6
(4) it provides remedy to the injured party against the party who caused the wrong.7
The legal wrong gives rise to an obligation on the part of person who caused the wrong, also known as a tortfeasor, and the correlative right on the injured party to demand payment of damages. Hence, the active subject is the injured party, the passive subject is the person who caused the injury, and the juridical tie or vinculum juris between the active and passive subjects is created by the legal wrong itself.8
Quasi Delict and Tort in Philippine Law
While tort is a common law principle and may include acts or omissions punished by law [delict], the difference between the latter and quasi delict in Philippine legal system may have somehow evaporated. They may be regarded as the same, except for the terminology and etymology. Hence, the discussion on tort liability may very well be applicable likewise when dealing with quasi delict.
Further, Philippine law mentions the sources of obligations such as law, contracts, quasi, contract, quasi delicts, and delicts.9 It did not state “tort”.
Quasi delict may also include intentional acts, just like tort in common law. Thus, in Elcano vs. Hill,10 the Supreme Court explained:
“x x x . . . to borrow the felicitous relevant language in Rakes vs. Atlantic. Gulf and Pacific Co., 7 Phil. 359, to hold, as We do hold, that Article 2176, where it refers to “fault or negligencia covers not only acts “not punishable by law” but also acts criminal in character, whether intentional and voluntary or negligent. x x x . . .”11
Liability arising from crime may also give rise to the responsibility as a consequence of quasi delict. This is known as concurrence of causes of action. Yet, it bars double recovery for the same act or omission [Article 2177, Civil Code].
Kinds of Tortious Conduct [or Quasi Delict]
Liability arising from a tort encompasses three types of conduct, to wit:
(1) intentional torts,
(2) negligence, and
(3) strict liability.
Intentional torts pertain to conduct where the actor desires to cause the consequences of his act or believes the consequences are substantially certain to result from it.12
Assault, battery, defamation, and invasion of privacy are some of the examples of intentional torts. Indications of intent may be in the form of bad faith, fraud, or malice. Malice connotes ill will or spite and speaks not in response to duty. It implies an intention to do ulterior and unjustifiable harm. Malice is bad faith or bad motive.13
On the other hand, fraud refers to all kinds of deception, whether through insidious machination, manipulation, concealment or misrepresentation, that would lead an ordinarily prudent person into error after taking the circumstances into account.14
Negligence pertains to voluntary acts or omissions that cause injury to others, without the intention to cause the same. In Article 1173 of the Civil Code, negligence is defined as the failure to exercise the due care that is required by the nature of the obligation and is appropriate given the people, time, and place circumstances.
Lastly, strict liability in tort relates to circumstances wherein a person is to be made liable, regardless of the presence of fault or negligence, subject to the presentation of proof of certain facts.
As Tony Honore discussed in The Morality of Tort Law, when a risky activity is involved which causes harm to others, even though the conduct in question is typically not wrong in and of itself, strict liability rule is applied.
In the Philippine setting, strict liability is imposed to manufacturers and processors of foodstuffs, drinks, toilet articles, and similar goods for the death or injuries caused by any noxious or harmful substances used, per Article 2187 of the Civil Code, and to suppliers of durable or non-durable consumer products for product or service imperfections, per Article 100 of Republic Act No. 7394, also known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines.
Sources of Tort Liability
As mentioned, Article 1157 of the New Civil Code enumerates the five sources of obligation, as follows: (1) law; (2) contracts; (3) quasi-contracts; (4) acts or omissions punished by law, also known as delicts; and (5) quasi-delicts. For the purposes of tort, law, delict, and quasi-delict are the sources of tort liability.
As to the law, the statute that primarily governs torts in the Philippines is the New Civil Code. Articles 2176 to 2194 of the New Civil Code governs “extra-contractual obligations” arising from quasi-delicts.
Lastly, as to quasi-delicts, Article 2176 of the New Civil Code states that whoever, by act or omission, causes damage to another, there being fault or negligence, is obliged to pay for the damage done. That fault or negligence, there being no pre-existing contractual relation between the parties, is called a quasi-delict.
The Catch-All Provisions of Tort Law
Articles 19, 20, and 21 of the New Civil Code are the “catch-all” provisions that serve as basis of any imaginable tort action. These provisions provide for general concepts that make persons liable for every conceivable wrongful act.15
Thus, under any of these three provisions of law, an act which causes injury to another may be made the basis for an award of damages.16
As Senator Arturo Tolentino puts it: “With this article (Article 21), combined with articles 19 and 20, the scope of our law on civil wrongs has been very greatly broadened; it has become much more supple and adaptable than the Anglo-American law on torts. It is now difficult to conceive of any malevolent exercise of a right which could not be checked by the application of these articles.”17
Article 19 – Principle of Abuse of Rights
Article 19 of the New Civil Code states that every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith.18
Article 19, known to contain what is commonly referred to as the principle of abuse of rights, sets certain standards which may be observed not only in the exercise of one’s rights but also in the performance of one’s duties. These standards are the following: to act with justice; to give everyone his due; and to observe honesty and good faith.19
The law, therefore, recognizes the primordial limitation on all rights: that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth in Article 19 must be observed. Thus, when a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held responsible.20
In Albenson vs. Court of Appeals,21 the Supreme Court enumerated the elements of an abuse of right under Article 19, as follows: (1) There is a legal right or duty; (2) which is exercised in bad faith; (3) for the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another.22
Article 19 of the Civil Code saw its application when the Supreme Court ruled in this case of Amonoy vs. Spouses Gutierrez.23 In this case, Atty. Amonoy, armed with a Writ of Demolition, demolished the houses of respondents despite the latter obtaining a temporary restraining order enjoining the demolition.
The High Court ruled that Amonoy’s acts constituted not only an abuse of a right, but an invalid exercise of a right that had been suspended when he received the temporary restraining order from this Court. He was no longer authorized to proceed with the demolition at that point.
Clearly, the demolition of respondents’ house by petitioner, despite his receipt of the temporary restraining order, was not only an abuse but also an unlawful exercise of such right. In insisting on his alleged right, he wantonly violated this Court’s Order and wittingly caused the destruction of respondents’ house.24 Hence, respondents are entitled to damages.
Article 20 – Acts Contrary to Law
According to Article 20 of the New Civil Code, anyone who willfully or negligently causes damage to another shall compensate the latter for the same. Article 20 refers to the general sanction for all other legal provisions that do not expressly provide for their own sanction.
Thus, anyone who, whether willfully or negligently, in the exercise of his legal right or duty, causes damage to another, shall indemnify his victim for injuries suffered thereby.25
In the case of Garcia vs. Salvador,26 respondent Ranida Salvador suffered injury as a direct consequence of petitioner Garcia’s failure to comply with the mandate of the laws and rules, as stated in Republic Act No. 4688 or the Clinical Laboratory Law and DOH Administrative Order No. 49-B, Series of 1988.27
She was terminated from the service for failing the physical examination; suffered anxiety because of the diagnosis; and was compelled to undergo several more tests. All these could have been avoided had the proper safeguards been scrupulously followed in conducting the clinical examination and releasing the clinical report.28
The Supreme Court ruled that Article 20 provides for the legal basis for the award of damages to a party who suffers damage whenever one commits an act in violation of some legal provision. This was incorporated by the Code Commission to provide relief to a person who suffers damage because another has violated some legal provision.29
Since neither the Clinical Laboratory Law nor DOH Administrative Order No. 49-B, Series of 1988, provide sanctions in case of violation of any of its provisions, Article 20 of the New Civil Code shall be applied. Thus, respondent is entitled to damages.
Article 21 – Acts Contrary to Morals
Article 21 of the New Civil Code states that any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage. Article 21 deals with acts contra bonus mores, and has the following elements: (1) There is an act which is legal; (2) but which is contrary to morals, good custom, public order, or public policy; (3) and it is done with intent to injure.30
Article 21 was intended to expand the concept of torts in this jurisdiction by granting adequate legal remedy for the untold number of moral wrongs which is impossible for human foresight to specifically provide in the statutes.31
In Baksh vs. Court of Appeals,32 the Supreme Court sustained the appellate court’s findings that it was the petitioner’s:
“fraudulent and deceptive protestations of love for and promise to marry private respondent Gonzales that made her surrender her virtue and womanhood to him and to live with him on the honest and sincere belief that he would keep said promise, and it was likewise these fraud and deception on petitioner’s part that made private respondent’s parents agree to their daughter’s living-in with him preparatory to their supposed marriage.”33
In short, the private respondent surrendered her virginity, the cherished possession of every single Filipina, not because of lust but because of moral seduction.34
Article 21 is designed to expand the concept of torts or quasi-delict in this jurisdiction by granting adequate legal remedy for the untold number of moral wrongs which is impossible for human foresight to specifically enumerate and punish in the statute books.35 The High Court ruled in favor of private respondent Gonzales and awarded her damages.
- Article 2176, Civil Code of the Philippines
- Robles vs. Castillo, 61 O.G. 1220, 5 C.A.R. [2s] 213
- G.R. No. 116123, March 13, 1997
- Timoteo B. Aquino, Torts and Damages, 2019 Edition, p. 2
- Article 1157, Civil Code of the Philippines
- G.R. No. L-24803, May 26, 1977
- Black’s Law Dictionary
- Saber vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 132981, August 31, 2004
- Maestrado vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 133345, March 9, 2000
- Timoteo B. Aquino, Torts and Damages, 2019 Edition, p. 18
- Albenson Enterprises Corporation, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 88694, January 11, 1993
- G.R. No. 140420, February 15, 2001
- Albenson Enterprises Corporation, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, Supra.
- G.R. No. 168512, March 20, 2007
- Albenson Enterprises Corporation, et al. vs. Court of Appeals, Supra.
- Philippine National Bank vs. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. L-27155, May 18, 1978
- G.R. No. 97336, February 19, 1993