Hidden Defect in Sales

A motor vehicle was sold but there was a hidden defect. It was delivered November 9, 1997 but the action was filed on April 20, 1999, hence, the defendant moved to dismiss on the ground of prescription. Will the motion prosper? Why?

Answer: No, because the action has already prescribed. Article 1459 of the Civil Code states that in a contract of sale, the vendor is bound to transfer the ownership of and to deliver the thing that is the object of sale. Corollarily, the pertinent provisions of the Code set forth the available remedies of a buyer against the seller on the basis of a warranty against hidden defects:

Art. 1561. The vendor shall be responsible for warranty against the hidden defects which the thing sold may have, should they render it unfit for the use for which it is intended, or should they diminish its fitness for such use to such an extent that, had the vendee been aware thereof, he would not have acquired it or would have given a lower price for it; but said vendor shall not be answerable for patent defects or those which may be visible, or for those which are not visible if the vendee is an expert who, by reason of this trade or profession, should have known them.

Art. 1566. The vendor is responsible to the vendee for any hidden faults or defects in the thing sold, even though he was not aware thereof.

This provision shall not apply if the contrary has been stipulated and the vendor was not aware of the hidden faults or defects in the thing sold.

Art. 1571. Actions arising from the provisions of the preceding articles shall be barred after six months from the delivery of the thing sold.

Under Article 1599 of the Civil Code, once an express warranty is breached, the buyer can accept or keep the goods and maintain an action against the seller for damages. In the absence of an existing express warranty on the part of the respondent, the allegations in petitioner’s complaint for damages were clearly anchored on the enforcement of an implied warranty against hidden defects, i.e., that the engine of the vehicle which respondent had sold to him was not defective. By filing this case, petitioner wanted to hold respondent responsible for breach of implied warranty for having sold a vehicle with defective engine. Such being the case, petitioner should have exercise this right within six months from the delivery of the thing sold. (Goodyear Phil. Inc. v. Sy, G.R. No. 154554, November 9, 2005, 474 SCRA 427). Since petitioner filed the complaint on April 20, 1999, or more than nineteen months counted from November 29, 1997 (the date of the delivery of the motor vehicle), his cause of action had become time-barred. (De Guzman v. Toyota Cubao Inc., G.R. No. 141480, November 29, 2006).