Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gaisano v Insurance G.R. No. 147839 June 8, 2006

J. Martinez

IMC and Levi Strauss (Phils.) Inc. (LSPI) separately obtained from respondent fire insurance policies with book debt endorsements. The insurance policies provide for coverage on "book debts in connection with ready-made clothing materials which have been sold or delivered to various customers and dealers of the Insured anywhere in the Philippines."
The policies defined book debts as the "unpaid account still appearing in the Book of Account of the Insured 45 days after the time of the loss covered under this Policy." The policies also provide for the following conditions:
1. Warranted that the Company shall not be liable for any unpaid account in respect of the merchandise sold and delivered by the Insured which are outstanding at the date of loss for a period in excess of six (6) months from the date of the covering invoice or actual delivery of the merchandise whichever shall first occur.
2. Warranted that the Insured shall submit to the Company within twelve (12) days after the close of every calendar month all amount shown in their books of accounts as unpaid and thus become receivable item from their customers and dealers.
Gaisano is a customer and dealer of the products of IMC and LSPI. On February 25, 1991, the Gaisano Superstore Complex in Cagayan de Oro City, owned by petitioner, was consumed by fire. Included in the items lost or destroyed in the fire were stocks of ready-made clothing materials sold and delivered by IMC and LSPI.
Insurance of America filed a complaint for damages against Gaisano. It alleges that IMC and LSPI were paid for their claims and that the unpaid accounts of petitioner on the sale and delivery of ready-made clothing materials with IMC was P2,119,205.00 while with LSPI it was P535,613.00.
The RTC rendered its decision dismissing Insurance's complaint. It held that the fire was purely accidental; that the cause of the fire was not attributable to the negligence of the petitioner. Also, it said that IMC and LSPI retained ownership of the delivered goods and must bear the loss.
The CA rendered its decision and set aside the decision of the RTC. It ordered Gaisano to pay Insurance the P 2 million and the P 500,000 the latter paid to IMC and Levi Strauss.
Hence this petition.

1. WON the CA erred in construing a fire insurance policy on book debts as one covering the unpaid accounts of IMC and LSPI since such insurance applies to loss of the ready-made clothing materials sold and delivered to petitioner
2. WON IMC bears the risk of loss because it expressly reserved ownership of the goods by stipulating in the sales invoices that "[i]t is further agreed that merely for purpose of securing the payment of the purchase price the above described merchandise remains the property of the vendor until the purchase price thereof is fully paid."
3. WON petitioner is liable for the unpaid accounts
4. WON it has been established that petitioner has outstanding accounts with IMC and LSPI.

Held: No. Yes. Yes. Yes but account with LSPI unsubstantiated. Petition partly granted.

1. Nowhere is it provided in the questioned insurance policies that the subject of the insurance is the goods sold and delivered to the customers and dealers of the insured.
Thus, what were insured against were the accounts of IMC and LSPI with petitioner which remained unpaid 45 days after the loss through fire, and not the loss or destruction of the goods delivered.
2. The present case clearly falls under paragraph (1), Article 1504 of the Civil Code:
ART. 1504. Unless otherwise agreed, the goods remain at the seller's risk until the ownership therein is transferred to the buyer, but when the ownership therein is transferred to the buyer the goods are at the buyer's risk whether actual delivery has been made or not, except that:
(1) Where delivery of the goods has been made to the buyer or to a bailee for the buyer, in pursuance of the contract and the ownership in the goods has been retained by the seller merely to secure performance by the buyer of his obligations under the contract, the goods are at the buyer's risk from the time of such delivery
Thus, when the seller retains ownership only to insure that the buyer will pay its debt, the risk of loss is borne by the buyer. Petitioner bears the risk of loss of the goods delivered.
IMC and LSPI had an insurable interest until full payment of the value of the delivered goods. Unlike the civil law concept of res perit domino, where ownership is the basis for consideration of who bears the risk of loss, in property insurance, one's interest is not determined by concept of title, but whether insured has substantial economic interest in the property.
Section 13 of our Insurance Code defines insurable interest as "every interest in property, whether real or personal, or any relation thereto, or liability in respect thereof, of such nature that a contemplated peril might directly damnify the insured." Parenthetically, under Section 14 of the same Code, an insurable interest in property may consist in: (a) an existing interest; (b) an inchoate interest founded on existing interest; or (c) an expectancy, coupled with an existing interest in that out of which the expectancy arises.
Anyone has an insurable interest in property who derives a benefit from its existence or would suffer loss from its destruction.  Indeed, a vendor or seller retains an insurable interest in the property sold so long as he has any interest therein, in other words, so long as he would suffer by its destruction, as where he has a vendor's lien. In this case, the insurable interest of IMC and LSPI pertain to the unpaid accounts appearing in their Books of Account 45 days after the time of the loss covered by the policies.
3. Petitioner's argument that it is not liable because the fire is a fortuitous event under Article 117432 of the Civil Code is misplaced. As held earlier, petitioner bears the loss under Article 1504 (1) of the Civil Code.
Moreover, it must be stressed that the insurance in this case is not for loss of goods by fire but for petitioner's accounts with IMC and LSPI that remained unpaid 45 days after the fire. Accordingly, petitioner's obligation is for the payment of money. As correctly stated by the CA, where the obligation consists in the payment of money, the failure of the debtor to make the payment even by reason of a fortuitous event shall not relieve him of his liability. The rationale for this is that the rule that an obligor should be held exempt from liability when the loss occurs thru a fortuitous event only holds true when the obligation consists in the delivery of a determinate thing and there is no stipulation holding him liable even in case of fortuitous event. It does not apply when the obligation is pecuniary in nature.
Under Article 1263 of the Civil Code, "[i]n an obligation to deliver a generic thing, the loss or destruction of anything of the same kind does not extinguish the obligation." This rule is based on the principle that the genus of a thing can never perish. An obligation to pay money is generic; therefore, it is not excused by fortuitous loss of any specific property of the debtor.
4. With respect to IMC, the respondent has adequately established its claim. The P 3 m claim has been proven. The subrogation receipt, by itself, is sufficient to establish not only the relationship of respondent as insurer and IMC as the insured, but also the amount paid to settle the insurance claim. The right of subrogation accrues simply upon payment by the insurance company of the insurance claim Respondent's action against petitioner is squarely sanctioned by Article 2207 of the Civil Code which provides:
Art. 2207. If the plaintiff's property has been insured, and he has received indemnity from the insurance company for the injury or loss arising out of the wrong or breach of contract complained of, the insurance company shall be subrogated to the rights of the insured against the wrongdoer or the person who has violated the contract.
As to LSPI, respondent failed to present sufficient evidence to prove its cause of action. There was no evidence that respondent has been subrogated to any right which LSPI may have against petitioner. Failure to substantiate the claim of subrogation is fatal to petitioner's case for recovery of P535,613.00.

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