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A. Principles

1. Abuse of right; elements


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. (Article 19, Civil Code)

The principle of abuse of rights is found under Article 19 of the Civil Code. (California Clothing Inc. v. Quiñones, G.R. No. 175822, 23 October 2013)

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. (Ibid.)

Article 19 was intended to expand the concept of torts by granting adequate legal remedy for the untold number of moral wrongs which is impossible for human foresight to provide specifically in statutory law. (Manaloto v. Bienvenido, G.R. No. 171365, 06 October 2010)

If mere fault or negligence in one’s acts can make him liable for damages for injury caused thereby, with more reason should abuse or bad faith make him liable. (Ibid.)

The principle of abuse of rights, is not a panacea for all human hurts and social grievances. (Mata v. Agravante, G.R. No. 147597, 06 August 2008)

1) Article 19, not the basis of an actionable tort by itself

Article 19 is the general rule which governs the conduct of human relations. By itself, it is not the basis of an actionable tort. Article 19 describes the degree of care required so that an actionable tort may arise when it is alleged together with Article 20 or Article 21. (Alano v. Magud-Logmao, G.R. No. 175540, 07 April 2014)


The elements of abuse of rights are::

1) There is a legal right or duty;

2) Which is exercised in bad faith;

3) For the sole intent of prejudicing or injuring another. (California Clothing Inc. v. Quiñones, supra.)

There is no hard and fast rule which can be applied to determine whether or not the principle of abuse of rights may be invoked. (Ibid.)

1) Bad faith, fundamental element

The existence of malice or bad faith is the fundamental element in abuse of right. (Tan v. Valeriano, G.R. No. 185559, 02 August 2017)

Malice or bad faith – implies a conscious and intentional design to do a wrongful act for a dishonest purpose or moral obliquity. (California Clothing Inc. v. Quiñones, supra.)


Under the abuse of rights principle found in Article 19 of the Civil Code, a person must, in the exercise of legal right or duty, act in good faith. He would be liable if he instead acted in bad faith, with intent to prejudice another. (Ibid.)

Good faith – consists of the intention to abstain from taking an unconscionable and unscrupulous advantage of another. (Ibid.)

The absence of good faith is essential to abuse of right. Good faith is an honest intention to abstain from taking any unconscientious advantage of another, even through the forms or technicalities of the law, together with an absence of all information or belief of fact which would render the transaction unconscientious. In business relations, it means good faith as understood by men of affairs. (Manaloto v. Bienvenido, G.R. No. 171365, supra.)


Article 19 of the Civil Code sets certain standards which must be observed not only in the exercise of one’s rights, but also in the performance of one’s duties. These standards are the following: to act with justice; to give everyone his due; and to observe honesty and good faith. (Ibid.)

The law, therefore, recognizes a primordial limitation on all rights; that in their exercise, the norms of human conduct set forth in Article 19 must be observed. A right, though by itself legal because recognized or granted by law as such, may nevertheless become the source of some illegality. (Ibid.)

When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform with the norms enshrined in Article 19 and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be held responsible. (Ibid.)

2. Unjust enrichment


Every person who through an act of performance by another, or any other means, acquires or comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground, shall return the same to him. (Article 22, Civil Code)

Unjust enrichment exists when a person unjustly retains a benefit to the loss of another, or when a person retains money or property of another against the fundamental principles of justice, equity and good conscience. (Filinvest Land, Inc. v. Backy, G.R. No. 174715, 11 October 2012)

Unjust enrichment is a term used to depict result or effect of failure to make remuneration of or for property or benefits received under circumstances that give rise to legal or equitable obligation to account for them; to be entitled to remuneration, one must confer benefit by mistake, fraud, coercion, or request. Unjust enrichment is not itself a theory of reconvey. Rather, it is a prerequisite for the enforcement of the doctrine of restitution. (Ibid.)

1) Related to principle of quantum meruit

Under the principle of quantum meruit, a contractor is allowed to recover the reasonable value of the thing or service rendered in order to avoid unjust enrichment. Quantum meruit means that in an action for work and labor, payment shall be made in such amount as the plaintiff reasonably deserves. To deny payment for a building almost completed and already occupied would be to permit unjust enrichment at the expense of the contractor. (Pascua v. G&G Realty TV Corporation, G.R. No. 196383, 15 October 2012)


The elements of unjust enrichment are:

1) That a person is unjustly benefited; and

2) Such benefit is derived at the expense of or with damages to another. (Ibid.)

The principle of unjust enrichment essentially contemplates payment when there is no duty to pay, and the person who receives the payment has no right to receive it. (Ibid.)

1) The enrichment must be unjust

Unjust enrichment claims do not lie simply because one party benefits from the efforts or obligations of others, but instead it must be shown that a party was unjustly enriched in the sense that the term unjustly could mean illegally or unlawfully. (Shinryo [Philippines] Company, Inc. v. RRN Incorporated, G.R. No. 172525, 20 October 2010)

Moreover, to substantiate a claim for unjust enrichment, the claimant must unequivocally prove that another party knowingly received something of value to which he was not entitled and that the state of affairs are such that it would be unjust for the person to keep the benefit. (Ibid.)


The essential elements of an accion in rem verso are:

1) That the defendant has been enriched;

2) That the plaintiff has suffered a loss;

3) That the enrichment of the defendant is without just or legal ground; and

4) That the plaintiff has no other action based on contract, quasi-contract, crime or quasi-delict.

1) Only an auxiliary action

An accion in rem verso is considered merely an auxiliary action, available only when there is no other remedy on contract, quasi-contract, crime, and quasi-delict. If there is an obtainable action under any other institution of positive law, that action must be resorted to, and the principle of accion in rem verso will not lie.

3. Liability without fault


In order that the law will give redress for an act causing damage, that act must be not only hurtful, but wrongful. There must be damnum et injuria. If, as may happen in many cases, a person sustains actual damage, that is, harm or loss to his person or property, without sustaining any legal injury, that is, an act or omission which the law does not deem an injury, the damage is regarded as damnum absque injuria. (Cristino v. CA, G.R. No. 116100, 09 February 1996)

1) Injury v. Damage v. Damages

Injury – is the illegal invasion of a legal right.

Damage – is the loss, hurt, or harm which results from the injury.

Damages – are the recompense or compensation awarded for the damage suffered.

Thus, there can be damage without injury in those instances in which the loss or harm was not the result of a violation of a legal duty. These situations are often called damnum absque injuria. (The Orchard Golf & Country Club, Inc. v. Yu, G.R. No. 191033, 11 January 2016)

2) Injured person bears the loss

In every situation of damnum absque injuria, the injured person alone bears the consequences because the law affords no remedy for damages resulting from an act that does not amount to a legal injury or wrong. (Sps. Carbonell v. Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, G.R. No. 178467, 26 April 2017)


One who makes use of his own legal right does no injury. Qui jure suo utitur nullum damnum facit. If damage results from a person’s exercising his legal rights, it is damnum absque injuria. (The Orchard Golf & Country Club, Inc. v. Yu, supra.)

Under the principle of damnum absque injuria, the legitimate exercise of a person’s rights, even if it causes loss to another, does not automatically result in an actionable injury. The law does not prescribe a remedy for the loss. (Amonoy v. Sps. Gutierrez, G.R. No. 140420, 15 February 2001)

1) Limitation: abuse of rights

This principle of damnum absque injuria does not apply when there is an abuse of a person’s right, or when the exercise of this right is suspended or extinguished pursuant to a court order. Indeed, in the availment of one’s rights, one must act with justice, give their due, and observe honesty and good faith. (Ibid.)

2) Lawful use of property

A person has a right to the natural use and enjoyment of his own property, according to his pleasure, for all the purposes to which such property is usually applied. As a general rule, therefore, there is no cause of action for acts done by one person upon his own property in a lawful and proper manner, although such acts incidentally cause damage or an unavoidable loss to another, as such damage or loss is damnum absque injuria. (Cristino v. CA, supra.)

When the owner of property makes use thereof in the general and ordinary manner in which the property is used, such as fencing or enclosing the same as in this case, nobody can complain of having been injured, because the incovenience arising from said use can be considered as a mere consequence of community life. (Ibid.)

4. Acts contrary to law


Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same. (Article 20, Civil Code)

While Article 19 lays down a rule of conduct for the government of human relations and for the maintenance of social order, it does not provide a remedy for its violation. Generally, an action for damages under either Article 20 (acts contrary to law) or Article 21 (acts contrary to morals) would be proper. (Ardiente v. Sps. Javier, G.R. No. 161921, 17 July 2013)

Article 20 provides that “every person who, contrary to law, willfully or negligently causes damage to another shall indemnify the latter for the same.” It speaks of the general sanctions of all other provisions of law which do not especially provide for its own sanction. When a right is exercised in a manner which does not conform to the standards set forth in the said provision and results in damage to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrongdoer must be responsible. Thus, if the provision does not provide a remedy for its violation, an action for damages under either Article 20 or Article 21 of the Civil Code would be proper. (Ibid.)

Article 20 concerns violations of existing law as basis for an injury. It allows recovery should the act have been willful or negligent. Willful may refer to the intention to do the act and the desire to achieve the outcome which is considered by the plaintiff in tort action as injurious. Negligence may refer to a situation where the act was consciously done but without intending the result which the plaintiff considers as injurious. (Alano v. Magud-Logmao, G.R. No. 175540, 07 April 2014)

5. Acts contrary to morals


Any person who wilfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damage. (Article 21, Civil Code)

Article 21, on the other hand, concerns injuries that may be caused by acts which are not necessarily proscribed by law. This article requires that the act be willful, that is, that there was an intention to do the act and a desire to achieve the outcome. In cases under Article 21, the legal issues revolve around whether such outcome should be considered a legal injury on the part of the plaintiff or whether the commission of the act was done in violation of the standards of care required in Article 19. (Alano v. Magud-Logmao, supra.)

1) Common element with Article 19

The common element under Articles 19 and 21 is that the act complained of must be intentional, and attended with malice or bad faith. (Ibid.)

The question of whether or not this principle has been violated, resulting in damages under Articles 20 and 21, or other applicable provision of law, depends on the circumstances of each case. (Ibid.)


Article 21 refers to acts contra bonos mores and has the following elements:

1) An act which is legal;

2) But which is contrary to morals, good custom, public order or public policy; and
3) Is done with intent to injure. (Mata v. Agravante, supra.)

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