G.R. No. L-21380. May 20, 1966 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title:
**Misamis Lumber Corporation vs. Capital Insurance & Surety Co., Inc.**

### Facts:
**Sequence of Events:**
1. **Insurance Policy:** Misamis Lumber Corporation, under its former name Lanao Timber Mills, Inc., procured an insurance policy for its Ford Falcon motor car valued at P14,000 from Capital Insurance & Surety Co., Inc. The policy contained specific provisions regarding the coverage and limits of liability.
2. **Incident Date:** On November 25, 1961, at approximately eleven o’clock in the evening, the insured vehicle, while traveling along Aurora Boulevard in front of the Pepsi Cola plant in Quezon City, encountered an oncoming car with undimmed lights.
3. **Damage to Vehicle:** The driver, unable to see due to the headlight glare, drove over a water hole, causing the crank-case and flywheel housing to break when the car subsequently hit a hollow block beside the water hole.
4. **Towage and Repairs:** The plaintiff had the vehicle towed and repaired by Morosi Motors at its shop located at 1906 Taft Avenue Extension, incurring a total cost of P302.27.
5. **Delay in Reporting:** On November 29, 1961, after the repairs were already completed, Misamis Lumber Corporation reported the accident to the insurer.
6. **Insurer’s Response:** Capital Insurance & Surety Co., Inc. refused to cover the total repair and towage cost, agreeing to pay only the authorized repair limit of P150 as specified in the policy.

**Procedural Posture:**
1. **Initial Lawsuit:** Misamis Lumber Corporation filed a suit in the municipal court.
2. **Appeal:** The case escalated to the Court of First Instance of Manila in Civil Case No. 51757, which ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
3. **Supreme Court Appeal:** The defendant, Capital Insurance & Surety Co., Inc., appealed the decision to the Supreme Court on a point of law. The Supreme Court decided to proceed without the appellee’s brief, which was filed late.

### Issues:
1. **Policy Interpretation:** Whether the insurance policy’s clear stipulation limiting repair costs to P150 should control.
2. **Insurer’s Liability:** Whether the insurer’s liability can exceed the P150 stated limit under the given circumstances.

### Court’s Decision:
**Resolution of Legal Issues:**
1. **Literal Interpretation of Policy:** The Supreme Court ruled that the explicit terms of the insurance policy, particularly paragraph 4, set a clear limit on the insurer’s liability for repairs authorized by the insured (up to P150). This clear stipulation must prevail according to Article 1370 of the Civil Code.
2. **Mechanics of Indemnity:** Misamis Lumber Corporation took it upon itself to repair the car before notifying the insurer, thereby bypassing the insurance company’s option to assess and undertake the repairs (paragraph 2 of the policy). This preempted the insurer from determining and possibly choosing a lower cost method for the repair.
3. **Unjustified Interpretation by Lower Court:** The court held that the lower court’s interpretation, which argued that denying compensation above P150 would render the contract one-sided, was incorrect. The terms of the contract, although seemingly onerous, were clear and binding between parties.
4. **Equity and Justice:** The court found it unjust to require the insurer to prove that the post-repair cost was unreasonable, as the insurer had no opportunity to inspect the damage before the repairs were done.

**Modified Judgment:**
The Supreme Court modified the appealed decision, limiting the defendant’s liability strictly to P150.00, in accordance with the policy terms.

### Doctrine:
1. **Contract Adherence:** The ruling emphasized the principle that the express terms of a contract must be adhered to, especially when they are unequivocally clear (Article 1370, Civil Code).
2. **Option Clause:** Emphasized the importance of allowing the insurer the opportunity to assess and repair, invoking proportionality and fairness in how repair costs are managed within policy limits.

### Class Notes:
1. **Insurance Law:**
– **Policy Interpretation – Article 1370 Civil Code:** Contracts must be interpreted according to their literal meaning when the terms are clear and leave no room for interpretation.
– **Authorized Repair Limit:** Policies often include specific limitations on the costs covered for repairs when pre-approval procedures are bypassed.
– **Insurer’s Repair Option:** Contracts frequently grant insurers the option to repair damages themselves to manage and control costs effectively.

### Historical Background:
This case reflects the judiciary’s approach in the 1960s towards stringent adherence to contract terms, underscoring the legal emphasis on clear policy language in insurance contracts. It also highlights the historical philosophy prioritizing equitable treatment between insured parties and insurers, particularly in the era when consumer protection laws were not as robust as in contemporary times.


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