• The abuse of rights principle

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    The seller sold her housing unit to the buyers for P70,000.00. In their Memorandum of Agreement, it was stipulated that the water and power bill of the unit would be for the account of buyers. However, the water connection remained in the seller’s name and was never questioned until four years later when, without notice, the water connection was cut.

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    When the buyer went to the water company’s office to complain, they were told that they were delinquent in their payment for three months and that it was the seller herself who requested that the water connection be cut off. This prompted the buyers to file a complaint for damages against both the seller and the water company.

    The Regional Trial Court ruled in their favor and ordered the seller and the water company to pay for damages. Affirming the decision of the lower court, the Court of Appeals held that the seller acted in bad faith and caused injury to the spouses despite her legal duty to honor their possession and use of the water line. With respect to the water company, it held that it failed to give a notice of disconnection and derelicted in reconnecting the water line despite the subsequent payment of the unpaid bills.

    Before the Supreme Court, the seller insisted that she should not be held liable because she had no participation in the actual disconnection. In denying her petition, the High Court held:

    It is true that it is within [the seller]’s right to ask and even require the spouses to cause the transfer of the former’s account with [the water company]to the latter’s name pursuant to their Memorandum of Agreement. However, the remedy to enforce such right is not to cause the disconnection of the respondent spouses’ water supply.

    The exercise of a right must be in accordance with the purpose for which it was established and must not be excessive or unduly harsh; there must be no intention to harm another. Otherwise, liability for damages to the injured party will attach. In the present case, intention to harm was evident on the part of [the seller]when she requested for the disconnection of respondent spouses’ water supply without warning or informing the latter of such request . . . there was clearly an abuse of right on the part of [the seller]and [the water company].

    Embodying the principle of abuse of rights, Article 19 of the Civil Code states that every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith. A right, although legal, may nevertheless become a source of illegality when such right is not exercised in accordance with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and injures another.

    Corollarily, Article 20 provides that, every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another shall indemnify the latter for the same (Aridente v. Spouses Pastorfide, G.R. No. 161921, 17 July 2013, J. Peralta).

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