[G.R. No. 144484.June 27, 2001]
vs. ATTY. QUADRA
hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 27 2001.
G.R. No. 144484(Magtanggol
D. Navarro vs. Atty. Pedro Q. Quadra)
This is a petition for
review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.
Petitioner Magtanggol D. Navarro assails the Decision dated June 16, 2000 of
the Court of Appeals, Fourth Division, in CA-G.R. CV No. 60412,1 Magtanggol D. Navarro, Plaintiff-Appellant,
vs. Fil-Estate Management, Inc., Defendant-Intervenor, Atty. Perdo Q. Quadra,
Movant-Appellee. affirming the trial court's award of attorney's fees to
private respondent Atty. Pedro Q. Quadra, with the modification that petitioner
should pay private respondent P583,333.33 instead of P500,000.00; and its
Resolution dated August 11, 2000, denying petitioner's motion for
The facts of the case are
Petitioner Ligaya Navarro
and the heirs of Vicente Navarro secured the legal services of private
respondent as legal counsel in connection with their claims over certain
parcels of land which conflicted with the claims of Fil-Estate Management, Inc.
(Fil-Estate). Private respondent served as petitioner's lawyer from April 13,
1981 to June 23, 1995.
On March 1, 1991,
petitioner Ligaya Navarro and the heirs of Vicente Navarro signed individual
contracts engaging the legal services of private respondent. The contract
between petitioner and private respondent stipulates:
3. In the event of any
compromise or amicable settlement of our cases, or any quitclaim, waiver or
sale of the property, I, MAGTANGGOL D. NAVARRO hereby agrees (sic) to pay Atty.
Quadra twenty five percent (25%) of whatever amount I may receive from such
compromise, amicable settlement, quitclaim, waiver, or sale of the property.2 Rollo, p.45.
In July 1994, Ligaya
Navarro, assisted by private respondent, entered into a compromise agreement.
Ligaya expressly waived, renounced and ceded in favor of Fil-Estate her rights
over the land in dispute in exchange for Two Million Three Hundred Thirty Three
Thousand Three Hundred Thirty Three Pesos and Thirty Three Centavos
(P2,333,333.33). A similar compromise agreement was concluded between the heirs
of Vicente Navarro, also assisted by private respondent, and Fil-Estate in
November 1994. Petitioner, on the other hand, refused to settle his claim at
once and demanded a bigger settlement fee of Ten Million Pesos
At around the same time as
the aforementioned compromise agreements were executed, private respondent
signed in favor of Fil-Estate an Undertaking dated July 18, 1994 and a
Supplemental Undertaking dated November 29, 1994 whereby he agreed to
perpetually and forever bar himself personally and professionally from any suit
questioning in any manner Fil-Estate's ownership over the lands previously
belonging to Ligaya Navarro and the heirs of Vicente Navarro. In exchange,
private respondent received two parcels of land from Fil-Estate.3 Id., at 50.
On June 23, 1995,
petitioner terminated private respondent's services due to loss of trust and
confidence. Petitioner thereafter hired new lawyers to handle his claims
On November 15, 1996,
petitioner and Fil-Estate executed a compromise agreement whereby petitioner
waived his rights over his land in exchange for Eight Million Five Hundred
Thousand Pesos (P8,500,000.00). On November 29, 1996, this compromise agreement
was approved by the trial court where the case between petitioner and
Fil-Estate involving the lot was pending.
On December 3, 1996,
private respondent filed a Motion to Pay Attorney's Fees, alleging that he had
not yet been paid for his services.
The RTC issued an Order
dated July 16, 1997 finding that petitioner terminated private respondent's
services without just cause and requiring him to pay the latter P500,000.00 as
On appeal, the Court of
Appeals dismissed petitioner's claim. The appellate court ruled that the appeal
was filed late since petitioner failed to pay the docket fees on time. It also
stated that since the termination of private respondent's services was
unjustified, private respondent should be paid in accordance with the terms of
their Contract for Legal Services.
filed the present petition, alleging that the Court of Appeals committed grave
and serious error in increasing the award of private respondent's fees.
Petitioner contends that it was not through private respondent's efforts that
he obtained a bigger settlement fee for his land, hence, private respondent
does not deserve to be paid according to the terms of their contract.4 See Petition, Id., at. 34-38.
In his Comment, private
respondent averred that he had not been paid a single centavo for his legal
services to petitioner since 1981, which services included the preparation of
numerous pleadings and extensive research in connection with petitioner's
claims over the land in dispute.5 Comment, Id., at. 71-88, 119-174. He also clarified
that the Undertaking dated July 18, 1994 and the Supplemental Undertaking dated
November 29, 1994 which he signed in favor of Fil-Estate did not involve
petitioner's claims.6 Comment,
Id., at 94-95.
The Court does not find
merit in the petition.
At the outset,
it must be stated that the Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's appeal
therein for being filed beyond the period required under the Rules of Court.
Petitioner's counsel received the trial court's Order dated July 16, 1997 on
July 17, 1997. He filed a motion for reconsideration thereof on August 1, 1997,
the last day of the fifteen-day period for perfecting an appeal. On September
9, 1997, petitioner received the trial court's order denying his motion for
reconsideration. He therefore had five (5) days from receipt thereof within
which to file his appeal. While petitioner was able to file his notice of
appeal on September 10, 1997, he paid the docket fees only on September 17,
1997, or three days after the lapse of the five-day reglementary period.
Section 1(c), Rule 50 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure expressly provides
that the Court of Appeals may dismiss an appeal for failure to pay docket fees
on time.7 Section
1(c), Rule 50 of the Revised Rules of Court reads:
Section 1. Grounds for dismissal of appeal. - An appeal
may be dismissed by the Court of Appeals, on its own motion or on that of the
appellee, on the following grounds:
(c) Failure of the appellant to pay the docket and other lawful fees
as provided in Section 4 of Rule 41;
x x x.
Even if petitioner's appeal
were to be considered a multiple appeal requiring a record of appeal to be
filed, as the trial court erroneously held, the Court of Appeals was still
correct in dismissing the same. Under the Rules petitioner had thirty (30) days
to appeal from the date of his receipt of the trial court's order. As was noted
earlier, petitioner received the trial court's order on July 17, 1997. Having
filed his motion for reconsideration thereof on August 1, 1997, or fifteen (15)
days from his receipt of the said order, petitioner still had fifteen (15) days
from his receipt of the order denying the motion for reconsideration to perfect
his appeal. Having received the order denying the motion for reconsideration on
September 9, 1997, petitioner only had until September 24, 1997 to perfect his
appeal. Thus, when he filed his motion for extension to file his record on
appeal on September 26, 1997, such motion could no longer be acted upon since
the order had already become final and executory.
Neither did the appellate
court commit any reversible error in ruling that private respondent was
terminated without just cause and that he should be paid the amount of Five
Hundred Thirty Three Thousand Three Hundred Thirty Three Pesos and Thirty Three
Centavos (P533,333.33), or twenty-five percent (25%) of the amount which
petitioner could have received as settlement from Fil-Estate if private
respondent was still his counsel. We agree with the following pronouncement of
the appellate court:
It can be seen therefore
that the reasons for the discharge of Atty. Quadra as Magtanggol Navarro's
counsel are rather muddled. In the x x x letter of Magtanggol Navarro, he
alleges that the reason he fired Atty. Quadra was that he had lost confidence
in the latter when Atty. Quadra wanted him to sign a document, apparently a
compromise agreement, that he did not understand. In the Opposition to the
Motion to Pay Attorney's Fees, however, an altogether different reason was
given, in that Magtanggol Navarro lost confidence in Atty. Quadra when the
latter, among other reasons, accepted parcels of land from Fil-Estate. It
appears that Magtanggol Navarro himself is not sure why he lost confidence in
Atty. Quadra. This casts a serious doubt on the validity of the termination of
Atty. Quadra's services.
Considering that the
termination of Atty. Quadra's services was not justified, it follows that he
should be paid according to the Contract of Legal Services executed on March 1,
1991 pursuant to Rule 138, Section 26 of the Rules of Court, which reads as
"Sec. 26. Change of
"A client may at any time
dismiss his attorney or substitute another in his place, but if the contract
between client and attorney has been reduced to writing and the dismissal of
the attorney was without justifiable cause, he shall be entitled to recover
from the client the full compensation stipulated in the contract. However, the
attorney may, in the discretion of the court, intervene in the case to protect
his rights. For the payment of his compensation the attorney shall have a lien
upon all judgments for the payment of money, and executions issued in pursuance
of such judgment, rendered in the case wherein his services had been retained
by the client."
However, it does not
necessarily follow that Atty. Quadra is entitled to the stipulated 25% of the
P8,500,000.00 which Magtanggol Navarro received, which is P2,250,000.00. There
is no showing that Magtanggol Navarro could have received that amount under
Atty. Quadra's representation. In fact, under Atty. Quadra's representation,
the heirs of Vicente Navarro as well as Ligaya D. Navarro-Garcia received only
P2,333,333.33 each. It was only when Atty. Quadra was relieved by the WLAP
lawyers that Magtanggol Navarro was able to wangle from Fil-Estate a compromise
agreement wherein he was paid four times what each of his siblings received
under Atty. Quadra's tutelage. Thus, the 25% should be reckoned from the amount
which Magtanggol Navarro could have received if Atty. Quadra was still his counsel,
which should be about P583,333.33.
While it appears that
Atty. Quadra was paid P333,333.33, this is because Atty. Quadra also received
two parcels of land from Fil-Estate pursuant to Atty. Quadra's Undertaking
dated July 18, 1994 and the Supplemental Undertaking dated November 23, 1994
which, it should be pointed out, expressly excluded Magtanggol Navarro's
The lower court thus was
not far off the mark in fixing Atty. Quadra's compensation at P500,000.00,
considering that this is approximately 25% of what the heirs of Vicente Navarro
and Ligaya Navarro-Garcia received under Atty. Quadra's representation. The
amount which should be paid to Atty. Quadra should thus be modified to
P583,333,33. 8 Decision
of the Court of Appeals dated June 16, 2000, Rollo, p. 56-58.
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DENIED and the Decision of the
Court of Appeals is hereby AFFIRMED.
Very truly yours,
(Sgd.) VIRGINIA ANCHETA-SORIANO
Clerk of Court