September 2005 - Philippine Supreme Court Decisions/Resolutions
G.R. No. 143788 - Danfoss, Inc. v. Continental Cement Corporation.
[G.R. NO. 143788. September 9, 2005]
DANFOSS, INC., Petitioners, v. CONTINENTAL CEMENT CORPORATION, Respondent.
D E C I S I O N
This is a Petition for Review on Certiorari under Rule 45 of the 1997 Rules on Civil Procedure of the February 11, 2000 decision1 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. No. SP-55645, and its resolution dated June 7, 2000 denying petitioner's motion for reconsideration.
The antecedents show that on November 5, 1998, respondent Continental Cement Corporation (CCC) filed a complaint for damages against petitioner DANFOSS and Mechatronics Instruments and Controls, Inc. (MINCI) before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 80, alleging that:
x x x
6. On 1 September 1997, Plaintiff CCC purchased from defendant MINCI two (2) unit 132 KW Danfoss Brand Frequency Converter/Inverter for use in the Finish Mill of its Cement Plant located in Barrio Bigte, Norzagaray, Bulacan. The said purchase is covered by a Purchase [Order] (PO) No. 36625'.
6.1 Under the terms and conditions of the purchase order, the delivery of the two (2) unit Frequency Converter are to be delivered within eight (8) to ten (10) weeks from the opening of the letter of credit;
7. Defendant MINCI, immediately relayed the purchase order of plaintiff CCC to the other defendant DANFOSS, represented by Messrs. Klaus Stove and Hans Vigaard, who in turn forwarded the same to their Asian Regional Office in Singapore and Head Office in Denmark for the shipment of the orders to the Philippines.
7.1 Defendant DANFOSS' commitment to deliver the two (2) unit Danfoss Brand Frequency Converter/Inverter to plaintiff CCC was relayed by defendant MINCI to CCC upon the assurance of Messrs. Stove and Vigaard of DANFOSS.
8. On September 1997, plaintiff CCC received the pro-forma invoice of defendant MINCI through fax transmission dated 2 September 1998, indicating the mode of payment through irrevocable letter of credit in favor of Danfoss Industries Pte. Ltd.'
8.1 Plaintiff CCC executed and opened a letter of credit under LC No. 970884 in favor of DANFOSS INDUSTRIES PTE. LTD., with address at 6 Jalan Pesawat, Singapore 619364, which is the Asian Regional Office of defendant DANFOSS'
9. Defendant MINCI informed plaintiff CCC through fax transmission dated 17 September 1997, that the two (2) unit Frequency Converter/Inverter are ready for shipment, and at the same time requested for the amendments of the letter of credit changing the port of origin/loading from Singapore to Denmark'.
9.1 In compliance, plaintiff CCC amended the letter of credit changing the port of origin from Singapore to Denmark'.
10. On 6 November 1997, defendant MINCI informed plaintiff CCC that Danfoss Industries Pte. Ltd. was still checking the status of the shipment of the two (2) unit Frequency Converter/Inverter with Danfoss Denmark.
10.1 In reply, plaintiff CCC through a letter dated 7 November 1997, reiterated its demand that every delay in the shipment of the two (2) unit Frequency Converter/Inverter will cause substantial losses in its operations and requested for the early work out and the immediate shipment of the frequency converter to avoid further loss to the company'.
11. However, on 9 November 1997, defendant DANFOSS, informed the other defendant MINCI through fax transmission, copy furnished plaintiff CCC, that the reason why DANFOSS has delivery problems was that some of the supplied components for the new VLT 5000 series did not meet the agreed quality standard. That means that their factory was canvassing for another supplier. And at that moment, there was no clear message when normal production will resume'.
12. Due to this information received, plaintiff CCC surmised that defendants MINCI and DANFOSS could not be able to deliver the two (2) unit Frequency Converter within the maximum period of ten (10) weeks period from the opening of the Letter of Credit, as one of the conditions in the Purchase Order dated 1 September 1997.
12.1 Thereafter, no definite commitment was received by plaintiff CCC from defendants MINCI and DANFOSS for the delivery of the two (2) unit Frequency Converter.
13. By reason of the delay of the defendants MINCI and DANFOSS to deliver the two (2) unit Frequency Converter/Inverter under PO No. 36625, plaintiff CCC, through its Purchasing Manager, informed defendant MINCI in a letter dated 13 November 1997, of the plaintiff's intention to cancel the said order'.
13.1 As a consequence thereof, plaintiff CCC has suffered an actual substantial production losses in the amount of Eight Million Sixty-four Thousand Pesos (P8,064,000.00) due to the time lost and delay in the delivery of the said two (2) unit Frequency Converter/Inverter. Likewise, plaintiff CCC was compelled to look for another supplier.
xxx xxx xxx2
On February 17, 1999, petitioner DANFOSS filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the ground that it did not state a cause of action:
xxx xxx xxx
The above allegations of the complaint clearly establish the following key constitutive facts:
1. Defendant's period of delivery is from 8 to 10 weeks from the opening of the letter of credit on September 9, 1997 or until November 19, 1997.
2. Defendant Danfoss, although having problems with its supplier during the period prior to defendant's cancellation, nevertheless, plaintiff never alleged that Danfoss Denmark cannot perform its obligation to deliver by the 10th week or on November 20, 1997. Admittedly, plaintiff only surmised that defendant Danfoss could not deliver.
3. Before the period for delivery has expired on November 19, 1997, the plaintiff cancelled its order on November 13, 1997. The cancellation took place seven (7) days before the expiry of the defendant's obligation to deliver on November 19, 1997.
4. Neither plaintiff nor defendant Danfoss changed the date of delivery, what plaintiff changed in the letter of credit was only the port of origin/loading from Singapore to Denmark. The period of delivery as stipulated in the pro forma invoice issued by defendant MINCI remained intact, that is for a period of 6 to 10 weeks from the opening of the letter of credit on September 9, 1997 or until November 19, 1997 was still in force when the plaintiff cancelled its order on November 13, 1997. Defendant Danfoss has not incurred in delay and has 7 days more within which to make delivery. Plaintiff, having cancelled the order on November 13, 1997 before the expiry of defendant Danfoss' delivery commitment, defendant Danfoss's principal could not have been in default.
5. Plaintiff never made an extrajudicial demand for the delivery of two (2) units Frequency Converter on its due date. On the contrary, as above alleged, plaintiff cancelled its order on November 13, 1997.
6. Plaintiff's claim for damages could not have accrued until after defendant incurred in delay.
The above allegations neither prove any right of the plaintiffs arising from the transactions nor a violation of such right. It is submitted that this Honorable Court based on the complaint, cannot render a valid judgment against the defendant Danfoss. The plaintiff's cause of action against Danfoss or plaintiff's right to demand delivery cannot arise earlier than November 19, 1997, which is the last day for the defendant Danfoss's principal (Danfoss Denmark) to deliver the two (2) units Frequency Converter. As admitted by the plaintiff, it cancelled its order on November 13, 1997, or six (6) days before the expiry of the defendant's obligation to deliver. Indeed, defendant Danfoss's obligation to deliver is not yet demandable. The period of 8 to 10 weeks for the delivery of plaintiff's purchase order of two (2) units Frequency Converter was established for the benefit of both the plaintiff and the defendant Danfoss. As such, plaintiff cannot demand delivery before the period stipulated'.
x x x
From the allegations of the complaint, there is also no clear and categorical demand for the fulfillment of the plaintiff's obligation to deliver by the 10th week or on November 19, 1997.
WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed of this Honorable Court that the Complaint be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action.3
The court a quo denied the motion to dismiss in its order4 dated May 28, 1999, holding that:
x x x
In the Court's opinion, the issue of whether or not the defendants incur delay in the delivery of the equipment in question within the period stipulated is a debatable question which necessitates actual trial on the merits where the parties have to adduce evidence in support of their respective stance.
While the defendants contend that the stipulated period of delivery had not lapsed yet when the plaintiff cancelled its order of the two equipments in question as the cancellation took place seven (7) days before the expiry date of the defendants' obligation to deliver, the plaintiff's position is that the acts of the defendants had made compliance with their obligation to deliver within the period stipulated, impossible, hence, there was no need for a demand as the law provides that "when demand would be useless, as when the obligor has rendered it beyond his power to perform." The plaintiff's contention if properly and strongly supported by evidence during the hearing of the merits of the case may well negates (sic) the defendant's contrary stand.
As to the argument of the defendant MINCI that it cannot be held liable jointly with the defendant Danfoss due to the fact that it was merely an "agent" of Danfoss, the Court finds the same a debatable issue considering the stand of plaintiff that the defendant MINCI dealt with the former not as an agent but also as a principal. The issue at hand necessitates the presentation of evidence which has to be done during the hearing on the merits of the case where the issue of damages incurred by either of the parties may well be taken up and judgment be rendered after presentation of evidence by the parties.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the two motions to dismiss, interposed separately by the defendants as earlier stated, are both denied.
Danfoss filed a motion for reconsideration of the order but it was denied. On appeal to the Court of Appeals, the latter also denied Danfoss' petition for lack of merit. The CA likewise denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration, hence, this appeal.
The only issue for our consideration is whether or not the CA erred in affirming the denial by the court a quo of petitioner's motion to dismiss the complaint for damages on the ground that it failed to state a cause of action.
Section 1 (g), Rule 16 of the 1997 Revised Rules on Civil Procedure provides that:
Section 1. Grounds - Within the time for but before filing the answer to the complaint or pleading asserting a claim, a motion to dismiss may be made on any of the following grounds:
x x x
(g) That the pleading asserting the claim states no cause of action;
A cause of action is defined under Section 2, Rule 2 of the same Rules as:
Sec. 2. Cause of action, defined. 'A cause of action is the act or omission by which a party violates a right of another.
It is the delict or wrongful act or omission committed by the defendant in violation of the primary right of the plaintiff.6
In order to sustain a dismissal on the ground of lack of cause of action, the insufficiency must appear on the face of the complaint. And the test of the sufficiency of the facts alleged in the complaint to constitute a cause of action is whether or not, admitting the facts alleged, the court can render a valid judgment thereon in accordance with the prayer of the complaint. For this purpose, the motion to dismiss must hypothetically admit the truth of the facts alleged in the complaint.7
After a careful perusal of the allegations in respondent's complaint for damages against petitioner, we rule that the same failed to state a cause of action. When respondent sued petitioner for damages, petitioner had not violated any right of respondent from which a cause of action had arisen. Respondent only surmised that petitioner would not be able to deliver the two units frequency converter/inverter on the date agreed upon by them. Based on this apprehension, it cancelled its order six days prior to the agreed date of delivery. How could respondent hold petitioner liable for damages (1) when petitioner had not yet breached its obligation to deliver the goods and (2) after respondent made it impossible for petitioner to deliver them by cancelling its order even before the agreed delivery date?cralawlibrary
The trial court erred in ruling that the issue of whether or not the defendants incurred delay in the delivery of the equipment within the period stipulated was a debatable question. It said that trial on the merits was necessary and the parties had to adduce evidence in support of their respective positions.8 But what was there to argue about when, based on the allegations of the complaint, petitioner was not yet due to deliver the two units frequency converter/inverter when respondent cancelled its order? It still had six days within which to comply with its obligation. The court a quo should not have denied petitioner's motion to dismiss the complaint (for its failure to state a cause of action) when, on its face, it was clear that petitioner had not yet reneged on its obligation to deliver the frequency converter/inverter on the date mutually agreed upon by the parties. Moreover, the obligation itself was negated by no less than respondent's own act of cancelling its order even before the prestation became due and demandable. Where therefore was the breach? Where was the damage caused by petitioner? There was none.
Consequently, it was wrong for the CA to affirm the order of the trial court denying petitioner's motion to dismiss the complaint for its failure to state a cause of action.
The principle of anticipatory breach enunciated in Blossom & Company, Inc. v. Manila Gas Corporation9 does not apply here. In that case, Blossom & Company, Inc. entered into a contract with Manila Gas Corporation for the sale and delivery of water gas and coal gas tar at stipulated prices for a period of four years. On the second year of the contract, Manila Gas willfully and deliberately refused to deliver any coal and water gas tar to Blossom and Company, Inc. because it was asking for a higher price than what had been previously stipulated by them. The price of its tar products had gone up. We held that:
'even if the contract is divisible in its performance and the future periodic deliveries are not yet due, if the obligor has already manifested his refusal to comply with his future periodic obligations, "the contract is entire and the breach total," hence, there can only be one action for damages.10
Thus, the principle contemplates future periodic deliveries and a willful refusal to comply therewith. Here, the obligation was single and indivisible - to deliver two units of frequency converter/inverter by November 19, 1997. The records do not show that petitioner refused to deliver the goods on the date agreed upon. On the contrary, petitioner exerted efforts to make good its obligation by looking for other suppliers who could provide it the parts needed to make timely delivery of the frequency converter/inverter ordered by respondent.
Furthermore, respondent's complaint suffered from another fatal infirmity. It was premature. The obligation of petitioner to respondent was not yet due and demandable at the time the latter filed the complaint. The alleged violation of respondent's right being no more than mere speculation, there was no need to call for judicial intervention.
The premature invocation of the court's intervention was fatal to respondent's cause of action.11 Hence, the dismissal of respondent's complaint was in order.
In sum, since respondent's fear that petitioner might not be able to deliver the frequency converter/inverter on time was not the cause of action referred to by the Rules and jurisprudence, the motion to dismiss the respondent's complaint for damages for lack of cause of action should have been granted by the trial court. In addition, the dismissal of the complaint was warranted on the ground of prematurity.
WHEREFORE, we hereby GRANT the petition. The assailed decision of the CA dated February 11, 2000 and its resolution dated June 7, 2000 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Civil Case No. Q-98-35997 pending before the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, Branch 80, is hereby DISMISSED.
Sandoval-Gutierrez, Carpio Morales, and Garcia, JJ., concur.
Panganiban, J., (Chairman), on official business.
* on official business
1 Penned by Associate Justice Jose L. Sabio, Jr., and concurred in by Associate Justice Eubulo G. Verzola and Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Special Tenth Division, Rollo, pp. 46-50.
2 Rollo, pp. 55-61.
3 Rollo, pp. 82-89.
4 Penned by Judge Agustin S. Dizon, RTC, Branch 80, Quezon City.
5 Rollo, pp. 107-108.
6 Joseph v. Bautista, G.R. No. 41423, 23 February 1989, 170 SCRA 540, cited in Regalado, F., Remedial Law Compendium, Vol. I, 7th Revised Edition, 1999, p. 66.
7 Consolidated Dairy Products v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 100401, 24 August 1991, 212 SCRA 810.
8 RTC decision, supra at note 5.
9 55 Phil. 226 (1930).
11 Laguna CATV Network, Inc. v. Maraan, 440 Phil. 734 (2002).