Replevin and its common law origins

Replevin and its common law origins

“In our jurisdiction, replevin may stand as a combination of the principal remedy with a prayer for provisional relief, or for the recovery of a loan obligation with an application for a writ of replevin on personal property used as security”

The action for replevin has deep common law roots, as it was “one of the most valued defenses of the feudal tenant against the lord.”

This was often referred to in the 13th century as a quare action, calling on the defendant (the lord) to show why he took cattle in distress and kept them in spite of the owner’s offer of “gage and pledge” (Theodore F.T. Plucknett, A Concise History of the Common Law).

In the Middle Ages, replevin was used when a landlord distrained his tenant because the latter disputed his liability to perform certain services.

The tenant can recover possession of the chattels by giving security to the sheriff for maintaining his contention in a court of law (A Concise History of the Common Law).

If the lord’s case is proved and judgment is rendered for the return of the chattels, the possession shall be restored to the lord (A Concise History of the Common Law).

In other words, the chattels originally distrained by the lord and returned to the tenant must be given back to the former to hold again as a distress (security).

Replevin is both a principal remedy and a provisional relief. When replevin is utilized as a principal remedy, the objective is to recover possession of personal property that was wrongfully detained by another.

When sought as a provisional relief, it allows a plaintiff to retain the contested property during the pendency of the action (Enriquez v. Mercantile Insurance Co., Inc., G.R. No. 210950, August 15, 2018).

In our jurisdiction, it may stand as a combination of the principal remedy with a prayer for provisional relief, or for the recovery of a loan obligation with an application for a writ of replevin on personal property used as security.

Examples of personal property that are the subject of the writ of replevin are motor vehicles, financial and corporate records, or jewelries, among others.

In the case of Fernandez v. International Corporate Bank, the Complaint for the collection of the sum of P190,635.90 with an application for a writ of replevin of a motor vehicle was filed in the Metropolitan Trial Court (MTC) of Pasay City; however, the value of the vehicle subject of the provisional relief exceeded the jurisdiction of the court (G.R. No. 131283, October 7, 1999).

The Supreme Court said that although the value of the vehicle seized pursuant to the writ of replevin may have exceeded the jurisdiction of the MTC, that fact does not deprive the trial court of its jurisdiction over the case.

After all, the vehicle was merely the subject of a chattel mortgage that had been used to secure the petitioner’s loan (G.R. No. 131283, October 7, 1999).

Who is the defendant in an action for the recovery of possession of personal property?

The person in possession of the property to be replevied is ordinarily the proper and only necessary party defendant; the plaintiff is not required to join as defendants other persons claiming a right on the property but are not in possession thereof (G.R. No. 210950, August 15, 2018 citing BA Finance Corporation v. Court of Appeals).

As a provisional remedy, a party may apply for an order for the delivery of the property before the commencement of the action or at any time before an answer is filed. Rule 60 of the Rules of Court outlines the procedure for the application of a writ of replevin (G.R. No. 210950, August 15, 2018).

The party seeking the issuance of the writ must file the required affidavit and a bond amounting to double the value of the property (G.R. No. 210950, August 15, 2018).

The applicant or some other person who personally knows the facts must show:

that the applicant is the owner of the property claimed, particularly describing it; or is entitled to the possession thereof;

that the property is wrongfully detained by the adverse party, alleging the cause of detention thereof;

that the property has not been distrained or taken for a tax assessment or a fine pursuant to law, or seized under a writ of execution or preliminary attachment, or otherwise placed under custodia legis, or if so seized, that it is exempt from such a seizure or custody; and

the actual market value of the property (Section 2, Rule 60, Amended Rules of Civil Procedure).

Once the affidavit is filed and the bond is approved by the court, the court will issue an order and a writ of seizure requiring the sheriff to take the property into his or her custody.

If there is no objection to the bond filed within five (5) days from the taking of the property, the sheriff shall deliver it to the applicant (G.R. No. 210950, August 15, 2018).

Hence, the contested property remains in the applicant’s custody until the court determines, after a trial on the issues, who among the parties has the right of possession (G.R. No. 210950, August 15, 2018).

If for any reason the property is not delivered to the applicant, the sheriff must return it to the adverse party (Section 6, Rule 60).

Personal property in custodia legis cannot be replevied. When property is lawfully taken by virtue of a legal process, it is considered in the custody of the law.

Therefore, when something is subject to the official custody of a judicial executive officer in pursuance of his execution of a legal writ, it is in custodia legis (Superlines Transportation v. PNCC et. al, G.R. No. 169596, March 28, 2007).

In the case of Dagudag v. Paderanga, the crew of MV General Ricarte failed to produce the certificate of origin and other pertinent transport documents covering the forest products.

Since nobody claimed the forest products, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) considered them abandoned and issued a seizure receipt (A.M. No. RTJ-06-2017, June 19, 2008).

Forest products lawfully seized by the DENR are already in custodia legis and thus cannot be the subject of replevin. There being a violation of the Revised Forestry Code, the DENR seized the forest products in accordance with the law (A.M. No. RTJ-06-2017, June 19, 2008).

In another case, the presiding judge of the Municipal Trial Court of Masbate was held administratively liable for issuing a writ of seizure ordering the sheriff of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Masbate to take immediate possession of a 6 x 6 truck that was in custodia legis.

The truck ordered by the judge to be seized was part of the exhibits formally offered in evidence in a criminal case (Danao v. Ginete, A.M. No. MTJ-03-1474, January 21, 2003).

The writ of replevin, being a provisional remedy, is ancillary to the principal action.

The dismissal of the replevin case for failure to prosecute results in the restoration of the parties’ status prior to litigation, as if no complaint was filed at all (Advent Capital v. Young, G.R. No. 183018, August 03, 2011).

To allow the writ of replevin to stand after the dismissal of the complaint would be to adjudge the complainant (Advent) as the prevailing party, when precisely no decision had been rendered.

Since Young possessed the subject car before the filing of the replevin case, the same must be returned to him (G.R. No. 183018, August 03, 2011).

A writ of replevin issued by any court in the Philippines may be served and enforced anywhere in the country.

There is no legal provision, statutory or reglementary, expressed or implied, that provides a jurisdictional or territorial limit to the area of enforceability of a writ of replevin (G.R. No. 131283, October 7, 1999).

Replevin and its common law origins