Jose Alcala vs Honesto De Vera

November 18, 2015
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56 SCRA 30 – Legal Ethics – Duty of a lawyer to update his client of the status of the case

Jose Alcala engaged the services of Atty. Honesto De Vera to defend him in a civil case.

On April 17, 1963, the court rendered a decision against Alcala.

On April 19, 1963, Atty. De Vera received a copy of the adverse decision. Atty. De Vera failed to inform Alcala about the adverse decision.

On July 17, 1963, the court sheriff went to Alcala to serve a writ of execution. That was the only time when Alcala learned that he lost. And because of Atty. De Vera’s failure to inform him of the adverse decision, the period within which Alcala can appeal his case had already lapsed.

As a result, in September 1963, Alcala filed a civil case against Atty. De Vera in order to collect damages as he averred that he sustained damages due to Atty. De Vera’s negligence. The court however ruled that Alcala is not entitled to damages.

Unfettered, Alcala filed a disbarment case against Atty. De Vera.

ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. De Vera should be disbarred because of his failure to update his client of the status of the case.

HELD: No. Disbarment is not warranted in this case. It is true that Atty. De Vera had been remiss in his duties as counsel for Alcala because he failed to update him of the status of the case, however, it appears that Alcala did not sustain any damage by reason of such negligence. But this is not to say that Atty. De Vera can go scot-free. The lack of damage to Alcala will only serve as a mitigating circumstance. The Supreme Court found Atty. De Vera guilty of simple negligence and he was severely censured for his negligence. Atty. De Vera’s failure to notify his clients of the decision in question manifests a lack of total dedication or devotion to the client’s interest expected of Atty. De Vera under the lawyer’s oath.

In this case, it can also be gleaned that not all negligence by counsel entitles the client to collect damages from the negligent lawyer.

 

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