[G.R. NO. 149023 : September 27, 2007]
LEO WINSTON BRIN LEE, Petitioner, v. SPOUSES AMADEO and ADELAIDA CARREON, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
Spouses Amadeo and Adelaida Carreon, respondents, are the owners of a house and Lots Nos. 8-B and 8-C located in Cebu City covered by Transfer Certificates of Title (TCT) Nos. 61049 and 56745, respectively, of the Registry of Deeds, same city.
On the other hand, Anita Linda Rodriguez is the owner of Lot No. 6213-A-2 covered by TCT No. 93402. It is situated within the vicinity of respondent spouses' lots.
As there is no existing way from their property to the nearest road, respondents filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 22, Cebu City a complaint for easement of right of way against Rodriguez, docketed as Civil Case No. CEB-7426. During the pre-trial, the RTC found that there is another servient estate, owned by Mr. and Ms. Anselmo Jardin which could be used by respondents as a right of way. Respondents then filed a Motion for Leave to Admit Amended Complaint to include spouses Jardin as co-defendants, the latter being owners of Lots Nos. 6213-A-3, 6213-A-4 and 8-A located on the eastern side of respondents' property. On June 9, 1989, the RTC issued an Order admitting the Amended Complaint.
However, the lots of spouses Jardin were sold pendente lite to Leo Winston Brin Lee, petitioner. As a result, respondents filed a Motion for Leave to Admit Second Amended Complaint impleading petitioner as additional defendant. On September 10, 1993, the RTC granted the motion.
After trial, the RTC rendered Judgment in favor of respondents and against petitioner, the dispositive portion of which reads:
FOR ALL THE FOREGOING, judgment is hereby rendered for the plaintiffs as follows:
1. Ordering defendant Mr. Leo Winston Brin Lee to grant plaintiffs a right of way on the northern portion of his properties as indicated in Exh.9-Lee measuring "one-meter wide and thirteen meters long;
2. Ordering Mr. Leo Winston Brin Lee to demolish the fence/structure to the extent obstructing the right of way hereinabove constituted;
3. Ordering plaintiffs to solidarily pay defendant Lee the amount of THREE THOUSAND PESOS (
P3,000.00) per sq. m. or a total of THIRTY NINE THOUSAND PESOS ( P39,000.00) as payment of indemnity, on or before the complete establishment thereof;
4. Further ordering plaintiffs to solidarily pay defendant Lee the amount of TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND PESOS (
P25,000.00) as the value of the wall/fence to be demolished likewise on or before the complete establishment of the easement; and
5. All counterclaims are hereby dismissed for lack of merit.
NO PRONOUNCEMENT AS TO COSTS.
On appeal by petitioner, the Court of Appeals, in its assailed Decision, affirmed the RTC Judgment, thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the present appeal is hereby DISMISSED, for lack of merit. The appealed Decision dated June 24, 1997 of the Regional Trial Court of Cebu City, Branch 22 in Civil Case No. CEB-7426 is hereby AFFIRMED.
No pronouncement as to costs.
Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but it was denied by the appellate court in its Resolution of June 21, 2001.
Hence, the present petition.
Petitioner contends that respondents have an existing right of way; and that had the trial court considered certain testimonial evidence and respondents' admissions, its conclusion and that of the Court of Appeals would have been different.
Respondents, on the other hand, pray that the petition be denied for lack of merit.
The issue for our resolution is whether the Court of Appeals erred in ruling that respondents are entitled to an easement of right of way on petitioner's property. This issue is both factual and legal in nature.
The conferment of a legal easement of right of way is governed by Articles 649 and 650 of the Civil Code reproduced as follows:
ART. 649. The owner, or any person who by virtue of a real right may cultivate or use any immovable, which is surrounded by other immovables pertaining to other persons and without adequate outlet to a public highway, is entitled to demand a right of way through the neighboring estates, after payment of the proper indemnity.
Should this easement be established in such a manner that its use may be continuous for all the needs of the dominant estate, establishing a permanent passage, the indemnity shall consist of the value of the land occupied and the amount of the damage caused to the servient estate.
In case the right of way is limited to the necessary passage for the cultivation of the estate surrounded by others and for the gathering of its crops through the servient estate without a permanent way, the indemnity shall consist in the payment of the damage caused by such encumbrance.
This easement is not compulsory if the isolation of the immovable is due to the proprietor's own acts.
ART. 650. The easement of right of way shall be established at the point least prejudicial to the servient estate, and, insofar as consistent with this rule, where the distance from the dominant estate to a public highway may be the shortest.
To be entitled to an easement of right of way, the following requisites should be met:
1. the dominant estate is surrounded by other immovables and has no adequate outlet to a public highway (Art. 649, par. 1);
2. there is payment of proper indemnity (Art. 649, par. 1);
3. the isolation is not due to the acts of the proprietor of the dominant estate (Art. 649, last par.); andcralawlibrary
4. the right of way claimed is at the point least prejudicial to the servient estate; and insofar as consistent with this rule, where the distance from the dominant estate to a public highway may be the shortest (Art. 650).3
All the above requisites are present here.
As regards the first requisite, the parties agreed that respondents' property is surrounded by the estates of other persons, including that of petitioner. The only dispute is whether respondents have an adequate outlet to the nearest road. The Court of Appeals held:
x x x What defendant-appellant insists is that plaintiffs-appellees can use another outlet leading to the nearest road by traversing several small lots and thereafter use the northern portion of his property which he is willing to be the subject of a right of way. The trial court found that plaintiffs-appellees managed to reach the nearest road through any passage available, passing through several lots as they were unobstructed by any structure of fence. However, as correctly ruled by the court a quo, this is not the adequate outlet referred to by law.Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
Plaintiffs-appellees have every right in accordance with law to formally demand for an adequate outlet sufficient for their needs. Moreover, the alternative route referred to by defendant-appellant appears to be merely a proposed outlet, not yet in existence. x x x
The second requisite is that payment of indemnity has been complied with. Respondents have consistently maintained that they are "willing to pay the area affected at a reasonable price that may be fixed by the Court."4
Anent the third requisite, records show that the isolation of respondents' property is not due to their fault.Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
Actually, it is surrounded by estates of other persons, leaving respondents no adequate ingress or egress to a public highway.
Going now to the fourth requisite that the right of way claimed is at the point "least prejudicial" and "shortest distance" to the servient estate, the Court of Appeals held: "We find the same to be present in the case at bar." Moreover, it should be emphasized that what respondent spouses asked for was merely a one (1) meter wide pathway. The trial court found that this easement will only affect a small portion of petitioner's lot which has a total area of 249 square meters.5 Only his fence will be affected, the damage of which respondent spouses are willing to pay.Ï‚Î·Î±Ã±rÎ¿blÎµÅ¡ Î½Î¹râ€ Ï…Î±l lÎ±Ï‰ lÎ¹brÎ±rÃ¿
Verily, we find no cogent reason to disturb the Decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the Judgment of the trial court.
WHEREFORE, we DENY the petition. The challenged Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CV No. 60511 are AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner.
1 Filed under Rule 45, 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
2 Penned by Associate Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, Jr. and Associate Justice Perlita J. Tria-Tirona (retired).
3 Sta. Maria v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 127549, January 28, 1998, 285 SCRA 351, 358, with citations.
4 Annex "C" of the Amended Complaint, Rollo, pp. 41-44.
5 RTC Judgment, id., pp. 28-36.