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Corporate Law and Negotiable Instruments Law Case Digest: Llorente v. Star City Pty Ltd. (2020)


First Division
Llorente v. Star City Pty Ltd.(2020)
G.R. No. 212050/G.R. No. 212216, January 15, 2020
Caguioa, J.


Lessons Applicable: Capacity to Sue, Jurisdiction of RTC, Isolation Transaction Rule, Bank Drafts, Drawer Liability, Effect of Stop Payment Order

Laws Applicable: Sec. 150 of RA 11232, Section 84 of the NIL

FACTS:
•    Star City Pty Limited (SCPL) operates as a casino in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia and claims that it is not doing business in the Philippines and is suing for an isolated transaction. 
•    November 25, 2002: It filed a complaint for collection of sum of money with prayer for preliminary attachment against Llorente, who was a patron of its Star City casino and Equitable PCI Bank (EPCIB).
•    July 12, 2000: Llorente negotiated two (2) Equitable PCI bank drafts with check numbers 034967 and 034968 worth 150,000 USD each or for the total amount of 300,000 USD in order to play in the Premium Programme of the casino.
•    The Premium Programme offers the patron a 1% commission rebate on his turnover at the gambling table and a .10% rebate for complimentary expense
•    Before upgrading Llorente to this programme, SCPL contracted 1st EPCIB to check the status of the subject drafts    
•    After Llorente confirmed that the same were issued on clear funds without any stop payment orders, his front money account in the casino was credited with 300,000 USD
•    July 18, 2000: SCPL deposited the drafts with Tomas Cook Ltd.
•    August 1, 2000: SCPL received the advise of Bank of New York about the “Stop Payment Order” (SPO) prompting it to make several demands upon Llorente who refused to pay
•    August 30, 2000: SCPL sought settlement from EPCIB which denied it on the ground of the SPO by LLorente and no notice of dishonor was given.
•    January 28, 2003: RTC granted the issuance of writ of preliminary attachment based on the indicative acts of Llorente of his intention to avoid his obligation and defraud SCPL (i.e. leaving hotel premise without informing SPCL his whereabouts, failing to pay for services availed of, requesting SPO despite availing of services, failure to communicate for the settlement of his obligations)
•    Llorente alleged that he caused the SPO because of SCPL’s commission of fraud and unfair gaming practices during his stay in the casino from July 12 to July 17, 2000.  He also sought the dismissal of the case on the ground of lack of legal capacity to sue since the “isolated transaction rule” only covers transaction which occurred in the Philippines when the same occurred in Australia.
•    EPCIB in its answer also alleged lack of personality to sue before the Philippine courts and denied that it unjustifiably and maliciously refused to settle the obligation since it merely complied with Llorente’s instruction.  Moreover, it stated that SCPL has no action against it since there was no privity of contract between them.  It also filed a cross-claim against Llorente since it already reimbursed the face value of the subject drafts, it is relieved of all liabilities under said drafts.
•    RTC: Found SPCL to have legal capacity to sue and held Llorente (as payee of the drafts and indorser who signed on its back) and EPCIB (as drawer of the drafts) solidarily liable for the value of the drafts.
•    CA: Denied Llorante’s appeal but partially granted EPCIB’s discharhing it from any responsibility considering that it already paid Llorente
•    CA denied both Llorente’s motion for reconsideration and SCPL’s partial motion for reconsideration
•    Llorente and SCPL filed an instant Rule 45 petitions for review on certiorari

ISSUES:
1.    W/N SCPL has the capacity to sue
2.    W/N Philippine courts have jurisdiction over the case
3.    W/N EPCIB should be liable as drawer

HELD:
1.    YES.
  • Sec. 150 of RA 11232 (Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines) (RCC) which became effective on February 23, 2019 (reproduction of Sec. 133 of BP 68) provides:
    • SEC.  150. Doing  Business  Without  a  License.–No  foreign  corporation  transacting business  in  the  Philippines  without  a  license,  or  its  successors  or  assigns,  shall  be  permitted  to maintain or intervene in any action, suit or proceeding in any court or administrative agency of the Philippines; but such corporation may be sued or proceeded against before Philippine courts or administrative tribunals on any valid cause of action recognized under Philippine laws
  • While the RCC grants to foreign corporations with Philippine license the right to sue in the Philippines, the Court, in the long line of cases under the regime of the Corporation Code has held that a foreign corporation not engaged in business in the Philippines may not be denied the right to file an action in the Philippines court for an isolated transaction. 
    • The issue on whether a foreign corporation which does not have license to engage in business the Philippines can seek redress in Philippine courts depends on whether it is doing business or it merely entered into an isolated transaction – qualifying circumstance essential part of the plaintiff’s capacity to sue (as a matter of pleading and procedure) should be affirmatively pleaded  
    • In the case at bar, SCPL alleged in its complaint that it is not doing business in the Philippines and is suing upon a singular and isolated transaction and appointed Jimeno, Jalandoni and Cope Law Offices as its attorney-in-fact.  The latter is irrelevant to its capacity to sue.
    • Moreover, Llorente in his answer pleaded an affirmative relief for damages from SCPL by way of counterclaim – contrary to his position that plaintiff has no capacity to sue and admitted the capacity of plaintiff to be subject of judicial process.  It would be unfair to allow it to be sued and not allowing it to sue on an isolated transaction here.

2.    Yes.
  • Complaint is for civil case for collection of sum of money which under BP 129 Section 19 RTCs have jurisdiction – above 400,000 in Metro Manila
    • Amount demanded: 300,000 USD plus legal interest from date of 1st demand on December 20, 2000 until full payment is 
  • Criminal case territorial jurisdiction involving checks: any of the places where the check is drawn, issued, delivered or dishonored has jurisdiction – subject drafts drawn by EPCIB, a Philippine bank

3.    Yes.
  • CA recognized SCPL as a holder in due course and it did not overturn the finding of the RTC that the subject demand/bank drafts are negotiable instruments.  In effect, 2 demand/bank drafts drawn by EPCIB with Llorante as the payee are negotiable instruments.
    • A draft is a form of a bill of exchange used mainly in transactions between persons physically remote from each other.  It is an order by 1 person, say the buyer of goods, address to a person having in possession funds of such buyer, ordering the addressee to pay the purchase price to the seller of the goods.  Where the order is made by 1 bank to another = bank drafts – negotiable instruments governed by the provisions of Negotiable Instruments Law (NIL)
  •  Both RTC and CA recognized EPCIB as the drawer of the subject demand/bank drafts. 
    • Sec. 61. Liability of drawer. - The drawer by drawing the instrument admits the existence of the payee and his then capacity to indorse; and engages that, on due presentment, the instrument will be accepted or paid, or both, according to its tenor, and that if it be dishonored and the necessary proceedings on dishonor be duly taken, he will pay the amount thereof to the holder or to any subsequent indorser who may be compelled to pay it. But the drawer may insert in the instrument an express stipulation negativing or limiting his own liability to the holder.
    • When the bank, as the drawer of a negotiable check, signs the instrument its engagement is then as absolute and express as if it were written on the check and a dual promise is implied from the issuance of the check:
  •  Bank upon which it is drawn will pay the amount thereof
    • If such bank should fail to make the payment, the drawer will pay the same to the holder
    • Drawing a check = drawer admits the existence of the payee and his then capacity to endorse; impliedly represents that he (payee) has funds or credits available for its payment in the bank which it is drawn; engages that if the bill is not paid by the drawee and due proceedings on dishonor are taken by the holder, he will upon demand pay the amount of the bill together with the damages and expenses accruing to the holder by reason of the dishonor of the instrument; and if the drawee refuses to accept a bill drawn upon him, becomes liable to pay the instrument according to his original undertaking
    • Liability of the drawer is secondary = after acceptance – conditional upon proper presentment and notice of dishonor, and, in case of a foreign bill of exchange, protest unless such conditions are excused or dispensed with. 
    • Section 84 of the NIL: When instrument is dishonored by non-payment, an immediate right of recourse to all parties secondarily liable thereon accrues to the holder, subject to the provision of the NIL
  • GR: Effect of countermand or stopping of payment by the drawer - Relation between the drawer and the payee = as if the instrument had been dishonored and notice thereof given to the drawer
    • drawer of a bill (including a draft or check) may by notice to the drawee prior to acceptance or payment countermand his order and command the drawee not to pay, in which case the drawee is obliged to refuse to accept or pay  Drawer’s conditional liability is changed to one free from the condition > like that of the maker of a promissory note due on demand – liable on the instrument if he has no sufficient defense
  •  EX: Draft drawn by 1 bank upon another and bought and paid for by a remitter, as the equivalent of money or as an executed sale of credit by the drawer, is not subject to rescission or countermand so as to avoid the drawer’s liability thereon.
    • Right to stop payment cannot be exercised so as to prejudice the rights of holders in due course without rendering the drawer liable on the instrument to such holders
  1. Liability of EPCIB as the drawer cannot be abrogated by the Indemnity Agreement because bank drafts are negotiable instruments nor can it argue that it has no privity of contract.  Its secondary liability under Section 61 of the NIL became primary when the payment of the subject demand/bank drafts had been stopped which had the same effect as if the instruments had been dishonored and notice thereof was given to the drawer pursuant to Section 84 of the NIL.
  2. If EPCIB is made liable on the subject demand/bank drafts, it has a recourse against the indemnity bond.  In effect, the indemnity bond required by EPCIB is in effect an admission of his liability to SCPL and Llorente’s citing exceeding his obligation to pay as reason for the SPO weakens his allegation of fraud and unfair gaming practice against SCPL.
  3. Unjust enrichment cannot apply to SPCL since party who received the benefit was Llorente.  Any payment to SCPL arising from the subject demand/bank drafts by EPCIB and/or Llorente can never be by mistake.
    • Art. 2154. If something is received when there is no right to demand it, and it was unduly delivered through mistake, the obligation to return it arises
    • Art. 2163. It is presumed that there was a mistake in the payment if something which had never been due or had already been paid was delivered; but he from whom the return is claimed may prove that the delivery was made out of liberality or for any other just cause.
  • Both Llorente and EPCIB are individually and primarily liable as endorser and drawer of the subject demand/bank drafts, repectively – SPCL may proceed to collect the damages awarded simultaneously or alternatively provided it is not more than the damages awarded
    • 300,000 USD with interest at the legal rate of 12% per annum from date of extrajudicial demand against EPCIB: August 30, 2002) (that was made subsequent to the extrajudicial demand against Llorente) and 6% per annum from July 1, 2013 until full payment and the payment for attorney’s fees equivalent to 5% of the amount of demand with interest of 6% per annum from finality of Decision until full payment    
  • Art. 1207. xxx There is a solidary liability only when the obligation expressly so states, or when the law or the nature of the obligation requires solidarity.
    • No contract nor does NIL provide for solidary obligation under the liability of the drawer

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