G.R. No. L-28772. September 21, 1983 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title: Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Inc. vs. Fieldmen’s Insurance Co., Inc.

### Facts:

1. **Parties Involved**
– Plaintiff-Appellee: Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, Inc. (ABWE)
– Defendant-Appellant: Fieldmen’s Insurance Co., Inc. (Fieldmen’s)

2. **Insurance Policy Covered**
– ABWE insured a 1955 Chevrolet Carry-all under Fieldmen’s Private Car Comprehensive Policy No. 22 Jl 1107 for P5,000.00 against loss or damage including “burglary x x x or theft.”

3. **Circumstances Leading to the Loss**
– In the later part of 1961, ABWE’s representative, Dr. Antonio Lim, left the insured vehicle at Jones Monument Mobilgas Service Station in Davao City under the care of the station operator, Rene Te, for sale with a 2% commission.
– On January 18, 1962, Romeo Catiben, a station employee, took the vehicle without permission for a joy ride and crashed it into an electric post, causing damages valued at P5,518.61.

4. **Procedural Posture**
– The initial complaint for “Indemnity for Damages and Attorney’s Fees” was filed at the Court of First Instance of Davao, Branch I.
– Both parties submitted a Stipulation of Facts and requested judgment based on said facts.
– The Trial Court ruled in favor of ABWE, awarding P5,000.00 for damages, P2,000.00 for attorney’s fees, and costs.
– Fieldmen’s appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, which elevated the case to the Supreme Court on a question of law.

### Issues:

1. Whether the act of taking the vehicle for a joy ride by Romeo Catiben constitutes theft within the meaning of the insurance policy.
2. Whether a prior criminal conviction of Romeo Catiben for theft is necessary for the insurance claim to be compensable under the policy.

### Court’s Decision:

1. **Issue of Constituting Theft:**
– **Ruling**: The Supreme Court affirmed that Catiben’s act constituted theft within the meaning of the insurance policy.
– **Reasoning**: The Court observed that the taking of the vehicle was without consent and with intent to derive utility and enjoyment, fitting theft’s definition under Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code. The Court referenced prior jurisprudence which maintained that unauthorized use of property constitutes theft.

2. **Requirement of Prior Criminal Conviction:**
– **Ruling**: No prior criminal conviction for theft is required to claim indemnity under the policy.
– **Reasoning**: The Court held that the determination of theft in a civil insurance claim is based on a preponderance of evidence, not on the strict criminal law standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The insurance policy did not stipulate a requirement for prior criminal conviction to trigger coverage.

### Doctrine:

1. **Definition of Theft in Insurance Context**: The unauthorized and unlawful taking of a vehicle, with intent to derive any form of benefit or use from it, qualifies as theft under insurance policies covering theft.

2. **Criminal Conviction Not Necessary**: In civil actions involving insurance claims for theft, a prior criminal conviction is not a requisite for recovery of damages under the policy.

### Class Notes:

– **Key Elements for Theft under Insurance Policy**:
– Unauthorized taking of personal property
– Intent to gain or derive benefit
– Civil standard of preponderance of evidence sufficient for claims under insurance policy.

– **Relevant Statutes**:
– Article 308, Revised Penal Code: “Who are liable for theft. – Theft is committed by any person who, with intent to gain but without violence against or intimidation of persons nor force upon things, shall take personal property of another without the latter’s consent.”

– **Application Interpretation**:
– The case simplified the requisite proof in civil actions under the insurance policy to preponderance of evidence, distinguishing it from criminal convictions that require proof beyond reasonable doubt.

### Historical Background:

This case emerged within the broader context of dispute resolution in insurance claims in the Philippines, specifically addressing the extent to which insurance firms must honor comprehensive coverage policies. This decision came at a time when courts were increasingly providing clarifications on issues involving policy interpretations, setting precedents for future cases regarding the obligations of insurance companies. The judgment is notable for emphasizing a civil law interpretation over criminal law standards in insurance disputes, reflecting a shift towards more accessible and practical legal remedies for insured parties.


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