Replevin & Employment Relationship

RTC has jurisdiction over action for replevin filed by employer to recover company car from employee pursuant to car financing plan. (G.R. No. 209011, April 20, 2016)

"Replevin is an action whereby the owner or person entitled to repossession of goods or chattels may recover those goods or chattels from one who has wrongfully distrained or taken, or who wrongfully detains such goods or chattels. It is designed to permit one having right to possession to recover property in specie from one who has wrongfully taken or detained the property. The term may refer either to the action itself, for the recovery of personalty, or to the provisional remedy traditionally associated with it, by which possession of the property may be obtained by the plaintiff and retained during the pendency of the action."

In reversing the trial court's ruling, the CA declared that "[Alibudbud] could not have availed of the Car Financing Plan if she was not an employee of [Malayan]. The status of being an employee and officer of [Alibudbud] in [Malayan] was, therefore, one of the pre-condition before she could avail of the benefits of the Car Financing Plan. Such being the case, there is no doubt that [Alibudbud's] availing of the Car Financing Plan being offered by [Malayan] was necessarily and intimately connected with or related to her employment in the aforesaid Company."
It should be noted, however, that the present action involves the parties' relationship as debtor and creditor, not their "employer-employee" relationship. Malayan's demand for Alibudbud to pay the 50% company equity over the car or, to surrender its possession, is civil in nature. The trial court's ruling also aptly noted the Promissory Note and Deed of Chattel Mortgage voluntarily signed by Alibudbud to secure her financial obligation to avail of the car being offered under Malayan's Car Financing Plan. Clearly, the issue in the replevin action is separate and distinct from the illegal dismissal case. The Court further considers it justified for Malayan to refuse to accept her offer to settle her car obligation for not being in accordance with the Promissory Note and Deed of Chattel Mortgage she executed. Even the illegal dismissal case she heavily relied upon in moving for the suspension of the replevin action was settled in favor of Malayan which was merely found to have validly exercised its management prerogative in order to improve its company sales.

As consistently held, "[t]he characterization of an employee's services as superfluous or no longer necessary and, therefore, properly terminable, is an exercise of business judgment on the part of the employer. The wisdom and soundness of such characterization or decision is not subject to discretionary review provided, of course, that a violation of law or arbitrary or malicious action is not shown."

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