2014 Case Digest: First United Constructors Corporation v. Bayanihan




G.R. No. 164985               January 15, 2014


PONENTE: Bersamin, J.

TOPIC: Compensation


                Petitioner FUCC and petitioner Blue Star were associate construction firms sharing financial resources, equipment and technical personnel on a case-to-case basis. From May 27, 1992 to July 8, 1992, they ordered six units of dump trucks from respondent Bayanihan.

                On September 19, 1992, FUCC ordered from the respondent one unit of Hino Prime Mover that the respondent delivered on the same date. On September 29, 1992, FUCC again ordered from the respondent one unit of Isuzu Transit Mixer that was also delivered to the petitioners. For the two purchases, FUCC partially paid in cash, and the balance through post-dated checks.

                Upon presentment of the checks for payment, the respondent learned that FUCC had ordered the payment stopped. The respondent immediately demanded the full settlement of their obligation from the petitioners, but to no avail. Instead, the petitioners informed the respondent that they were withholding payment of the checks due to the breakdown of one of the dump trucks they had earlier purchased from respondent, specifically the second dump truck delivered on May 27, 1992.

                Due to the refusal to pay, the respondent commenced this action for collection on April 29, 1993, seeking payment of the unpaid balance in the amount of P735,000.00 represented by the two checks.

                Petitioners averred that they had stopped the payment on the two checks worth P735,000.00 because of the respondent’s refusal to repair the second dump truck; and that they had informed the respondent of the defects in that unit but the respondent had refused to comply with its warranty, compelling them to incur expenses for the repair and spare parts. They prayed that the respondent return the price of the defective dump truck worth P830,000.00 minus the amounts of their two checks worth P735,000.00, with 12% per annum interest on the difference of P90,000.00 from May 1993 until the same is fully paid; that the respondent should also reimburse them the sum of P247,950.00 as their expenses for the repair of the dump truck, with 12% per annum interest from December 16, 1992, the date of demand, until fully paid


                Whether or not petitioners could avail themselves of legal compensation.



          NO. The Court held that petitioners could not avail of legal compensation because the claims of petitioners against respondent were not liquidated and demandable.

         A debt is liquidated when its existence and amount are determined. Accordingly, an unliquidated claim set up as a counterclaim by a defendant can be set off against the plaintiff’s claim from the moment it is liquidated by judgment. Article 1290 of the Civil Code provides that when all the requisites mentioned in Article 1279 of the Civil Code are present, compensation takes effect by operation of law, and extinguishes both debts to the concurrent amount. With petitioners’ expenses for the repair of the dump truck being already established and determined with certainty by the lower courts, it follows that legal compensation could take place because all the requirements were present. Hence, the amount of P71,350.00 should be set off against petitioners’ unpaid obligation of P735,000.00, leaving a balance of P663,650.00, the amount petitioners still owed to respondent.

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