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ORIENT INSURANCE COMPANY vs. E. P.

REVILLA, Judge of First Instance of Manila,


and TEAL MOTOR CO., INC., G.R. No. 34098, September 17, 1930

FACTS: The object of Orient Insurance Co.s (Orient) petition for writs of certiorari and
mandamus is to require respondent judge to permit Orients counsel to examine a letter,
part of which has already been read into the record in the course of the examination of one
of the witnesses testifying for private respondent Teal Motor Co., Inc. (TMC).

TMC, as plaintiff, filed a civil action against Orient for the purpose of recovering upon 2 fire
insurance policies issued by the latter over TMCs stock merchandise. The policy contained a
clause stipulating to the effect that all benefits would be forfeited if, in case of loss, the
claim should be rejected by the insurer and action is not commenced within 3 months after
such rejection. Orients defense alleges that the claim was rejected on April 15, 1929, and
that notice of such rejection was given to plaintiff by letter on the same day. However, suit
was not instituted by TMC until August 3, more than 3 months after rejection of the claim.

According to TMC, on the day they were notified of the rejection, Orient representative E. E.
Elser expressly requested TMC to defer judicial action until after July 31 for possibilities of
compromise between the parties. TMC relied on the request and delayed institution of
action. However, during the trial of the civil case, witness TMC president E. M. Bachrach
made an oral statement as to the substance of part of a letter received by TMC from its
attorneys, saying that he waited for about a week longer and not having heard anything
about it, he received a letter on July 13 from our attorneys urging me to file these cases .
When asked by the counsel for Orient to produce the letter, Bachrach only offered in
evidence part of the letter supporting his testimony (relating to the urging of the filing of
complaints) but refused to reveal the other part as it contained private matter privileged in
nature between the attorneys and TMC (relating to contract of fees, retaining of counsels
services in connection with the cases, alleged to be matters entirely distinct from the issue).

Orient demanded for the production of the best evidence, it being well-known a rule of law
that a witness cannot be permitted to give oral testimony as to the contents of a paper
writing which can be produced in court. In response, only a portion of the letter referred to
by the witness was read into the record. Orient now insists that inasmuch as all the letters
refers to the case then in court, the entire document should be exhibited pursuant to the
rule that when part of a document is offered in evidence, the entire document must be
presented.

ISSUE: Does presentation of part of the letter constitute waiver to present the whole
document? Yes. Is a contract for fees and other terms of employment between attorney and
client privileged in nature? No.

HELD: The excerpt in question must be considered as proof submitted by TMC, and there
can be no question that, part of the letter having been introduced in behalf of the plaintiff,
the whole of the letter could properly be examined by Orient, in accordance with the express
provision of section 283, Code of Civil Procedure.

As to the alleged privileged nature of the terms of employment between attorney and client
as contained in other portions of the letter, the court found it difficult to consider a contract
for fees as privileged. However irrelevant under the circumstances, it cannot be privileged in
nature. Contracts between attorneys and clients are inherently personal and considered as
private matters, but they are a constant subject of litigation, and contracts relating to fees
are essentially not of privileged nature.

Nevertheless, assuming arguendo that the letter contained privileged matters, such was
waived by the introduction in evidence of part of the letter. Section 238 of the Code of Civil
Procedure, making the whole of a declaration, conversation, or writing admissible when part
has been given in evidence by one party, makes no exception as to privileged matter; and
neither do jurisprudence on the subject recognize any exception. Hence, Orient was entitled
to examine the whole of the letter, with a view to the introduction in evidence of such parts
thereof as may be relevant to the case on trial, and the respondent judge was in error in
refusing to permit the inspection by Orient.