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Kazuhiro Hasegawa vs Minoru Kitamura

538 SCRA 261 Conflict of Laws Private International Law Jurisdiction Lex Loci Celebrationis Lex Loci Solutionis State of the Most
Significant Relationship Forum Non Conveniens
In March 1999, Nippon Engineering Consultants Co., Ltd, a Japanese firm, was contracted by the Department of Public Works and Highways
(DPWH) to supervise the construction of the Southern Tagalog Access Road. In April 1999, Nippon entered into an independent contractor
agreement (ICA) with Minoru Kitamura for the latter to head the said project. The ICA was entered into in Japan and is effective for a period of 1 year
(so until April 2000). In January 2000, DPWH awarded the Bongabon-Baler Road project to Nippon. Nippon subsequently assigned Kitamura to head
the road project. But in February 2000, Kazuhiro Hasegawa, the general manager of Nippon informed Kitamura that they are pre-terminating his
contract. Kitamura sought Nippon to reconsider but Nippon refused to negotiate. Kitamura then filed a complaint for specific performance and
damages against Nippon in the RTC of Lipa.
Hasegawa filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the contract was entered in Japan hence, applying the principle of lex loci celebracionis,
cases arising from the contract should be cognizable only by Japanese courts. The trial court denied the motion. Eventually, Nippon filed a petition
for certiorari with the Supreme Court.
Hasegawa, on appeal significantly changed its theory, this time invoking forum non conveniens; that the RTC is an inconvenient forum because the
parties are Japanese nationals who entered into a contract in Japan. Kitamura on the other hand invokes the trial courts ruling which states that
matters connected with the performance of contracts are regulated by the law prevailing at the place of performance, so since the obligations in the
ICA are executed in the Philippines, courts here have jurisdiction.
ISSUE: Whether or not the complaint against Nippon should be dismissed.
HELD: No. The trial court did the proper thing in taking cognizance of it.
In the first place, the case filed by Kitamura is a complaint for specific performance and damages. Such case is incapable of pecuniary estimation;
such cases are within the jurisdiction of the regional trial court.
Hasegawa filed his motion to dismiss on the ground of forum non conveniens. However, such ground is not one of those provided for by the Rules as
a ground for dismissing a civil case.
The Supreme Court also emphasized that the contention that Japanese laws should apply is premature. In conflicts cases, there are three phases
and each next phase commences when one is settled, to wit:
1.

Jurisdiction Where should litigation be initiated? Court must have jurisdiction over the subject matter, the parties, the issues, the
property, the res. Also considers, whether it is fair to cause a defendant to travel to this state; choice of law asks the further question whether the
application of a substantive law which will determine the merits of the case is fair to both parties.

2.

Choice of Law Which law will the court apply? Once a local court takes cognizance, it does not mean that the local laws must
automatically apply. The court must determine which substantive law when applied to the merits will be fair to both parties.

3.

Recognition and Enforcement of Judgment Where can the resulting judgment be enforced?
This case is not yet in the second phase because upon the RTCs taking cognizance of the case, Hasegawa immediately filed a motion to dismiss,
which was denied. He filed a motion for reconsideration, which was also denied. Then he bypassed the proper procedure by immediately filing a
petition for certiorari. The question of which law should be applied should have been settled in the trial court had Hasegawa not improperly appealed
the interlocutory order denying his MFR.