Third-Party Complaint

There were contracts of rule over real properties where the buyers were given the option to identify the areas to be delivered. After identification, the areas were delivered. It was discovered however, that the same have already been sold. The earlier buyer filed a complaint for ejectment where a compromise agreement was entered into, thus, the areas were surrendered to the first buyer. They demanded from the sellers that they be allowed to make a choice again but it moved to declare the defendants in default for failure to file a valid answer. It was granted. The Republic was allowed to present evidence ex parte; judgment was rendered. Motion for Reconsideration was filed but it was denied, hence, a petition for certiorari was filed with the Court of Appeals which reversed the lower court’s ruling. Is the ruling of the CA correct? Why?

Held: No. The pleading was an unsigned pleading, hence, it is not valid and of no legal effect. The defendant was properly declared in default was refused, hence, they filed a complaint for specific performance with delivery of possession of real property and damages. They claimed that they could not exercise their right to choose since the properties they pointed to have already been sold. The defendants claimed that they have already complied with their obligation. They faulted the plaintiffs for losing the properties because in the ejectment suit. They did not file a third-party complaint to implead the sellers in the suit for ejectment.

The lower court ruled that there was no cause of action for specific performance. The proper remedy is an action for enforcement of warranty against eviction. A petition for review was filed raising the issue of whether they have a cause of action for specific performance. Rule on the petition. Explain.

Answer: No, they have no cause of action for specific performance. They should have filed a third-party complaint when they were sued for eviction by the first buyers under Rule 6, Sec. 11. The function of a third-party complaint has been explained thus:

The third-party complaint, is x x x a procedural device whereby a ‘third party’ who is neither a party nor privy to the act or deed complained of by the plaintiff, may be brought into the case with leave of court, by the defendant, who acts as third-party plaintiff to enforce against such third-party defendant a right for contribution, indemnity, subrogation or any other relief, in respect of the plaintiff’s claim. The third-party complaint if actually independent of and separate and distinct from the plaintiff’s complaint. Were it not for this provision of the Rules of Court, it would have to be filed independently and separately from the original complaint by the defendant against the third-party. But the Rules permit defendant to bring in a third-party defendant or so to speak, to litigate his separate cause of action in respect of plaintiff’s claim against a third party in the original and principal case with the object of avoiding circuitry of action and unnecessary proliferation of lawsuits and of disposing expeditiously in one litigation the entire subject matter arising from one particular set of facts. Prior leave of Court is necessary, so that where the allowance of a third-party complaint would delay the resolution of the original case, such as when the third-party defendant cannot be located or where matters extraneous to the issue of possession would unnecessarily clutter a case of controversy into the action, the salutary object of the rule would not be defeated, and the court should in such cases require the defendant to institute a separate action. (Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. of the Phils. v. Tempongko, 27 SCRA 418).

If they filed the third-party complaint against the sellers, they could have sought from them contribution, indemnity, subrogation or any other relief in respect of the claim of the first buyers. The phrase “any other relief” includes a claim of a vendee for warranty against the vendor. (Sps. Uy v. Ariza, et al., G.R. No. 158370, August 17, 2006, citing Castillo v. Samonte, 106 Phil. 1023 (1960)).