Litis pendentia

Litis pendentia is a Latin term which literally means “a pending suit” and is variously referred to in some decisions as lis pendens and auter action pendant.[1] While it is normally connected with the control which the court has on a property involved in a suit during the continuance proceedings, it is more interposed as a ground for the dismissal of a civil action pending in court.[2] In Film Development Council of the Philippines v. SM Prime Holdings, Inc.,[3] The Supreme Court elucidated:
Litis pendentia, as a ground for the dismissal of a civil action, refers to a situation where two actions are pending between the same parties for the same cause of action, so that one of them becomes unnecessary and vexatious. It is based on the policy against multiplicity of suit and authorizes a court to dismiss a case motu proprio.

x x x x

The requisites in order that an action may be dismissed on the ground of litis pendentia are: (a) the identity of parties, or at least such as representing the same interest in both actions; (b) the identity of rights asserted and relief prayed for, the relief being founded on the same facts, and (c) the identity of the two cases such that judgment in one, regardless of which party is successful, would amount to res judicata in the other.

x x x x

The underlying principle of litis pendentia is the theory that a party is not allowed to vex another more than once regarding the same subject matter and for the same cause of action. This theory is founded on the public policy that the same subject matter should not be the subject of controversy in courts more than once, in order that possible conflicting judgments may be avoided for the sake of the stability of the rights and status of persons, and also to avoid the costs and expenses incident to numerous suits.

Among the several tests resorted to in ascertaining whether two suits relate to a single or common cause of action are: (1) whether the same evidence would support and sustain both the first and second causes of action; and (2) whether the defenses in one case may be used to substantiate the complaint in the other.

The determination of whether there is an identity of causes of action for purposes of litis pendentia is inextricably linked with that of res judicata, each constituting an element of the other. In either case, both relate to the sound practice of including, in a single litigation, the disposition of all issues relating to a cause of action that is before a court.[4]

There is substantial identity of the parties when there is a community of interest between a party in the first case and a party in the second case albeit the latter was not impleaded in the first case.[5] Moreover, the fact that the positions of the parties are reversed, i.e., the plaintiffs in the first case are the defendants in the second case or vice-versa, does not negate the identity of parties for purposes of determining whether the case is dismissible on the ground of litis pendentia.[6]

[1] Benavidez v. Salvador, G.R. No. 173331, December 11, 2013, 712 SCRA, 238, 248.

[2] Subic Telecommunications Co., Inc. v. Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, et al., 618 Phil. 480, 493 (2009).

[3] G.R. No. 197937, April 3, 2013, 695 SCRA 175.

[4] Film Development Council of the Philippines v. SM Prime Holdings, Inc., supra, at 185-188.

[5] Solidbank Union v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 153799, September 17, 2012, 680 SCRA 629, 668.

[6] Brown-Araneta v. Araneta, G.R. No. 190814, October 9, 2013, 707 SCRA 222, 246.

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