Heartless naman! National Museum tries to use opposing lawyer’s heart ailment to secure dismissal of case, but fails
The Court of Appeals (CA) has rejected the plea of the National Museum of the Philippines (NAP) for the dismissal of a P5.44-million suit filed by a construction company whose lawyer missed a hearing because of his heart condition.
In a recent 10-page decision, the CA 15th Division affirmed the August 7, 2017 order of Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 Judge Buenaventura Albert Tenorio, Jr., allowing the lawsuit of TERP Asia Construction Corporation to proceed.
The case revolved around the National Museum’s unpaid bills to TERP Asia.
TERP Asia lawyer Sherwin de Peralta failed to appear during the second pretrial hearing for the marking of documentary exhibits on June 8, 2017, prompting the National Museum to file a “motion to declare plaintiff non-suited.”
The company, however, said De Peralta suffered from enlargement of the heart and submitted a medical certificate. As a rejoinder, the National Museum argued that his law firm Manalo & Perez Law Offices could have sent another representative.
Judge Tenorio spared the case from dismissal in the interest of justice as he found no substantial injury to the National Museum. Instead, he warned De Peralta that a repetition of his non-appearance would be dealt with more severely.
The CA found the National Museum’s appeal “devoid of merit,” and said De Peralta had a “justifiable reason” for missing the hearing. It noted the fact that the lawyer attended the first pretrial hearing on May 25, 2017, negating any intention on his part to delay the case.
“The dismissal of a case based solely on such ground would defeat rather than promote the purpose of pre-trial which is to ensure prompt disposition of cases. Thus, the Court agrees with the ruling of public respondent that the interest of substantial justice warrants the relaxation of the rules,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Elihu Ybañez.
In any case, the CA noted that the appeal was moot and academic, because the RTC had already terminated the pretrial conference and issued a Pretrial Order on January 25, 2018. Since then, the civil case had already gone to the trial proper.