LEON J. LAMBERT v. T. J. FOX
1914 Jan 29, G.R. No. 7991
Corporation Law Case Digest by John Paul C. Ladiao (15 March 2016)
(Topic: Consideration for Stocks and Transfer)
Early in 1911 the firm known as John R. Edgar & Co., engaged in the retail book and stationery business, found itself in such condition financially that its creditors, including the plaintiff and the defendant, together with many others, agreed to take over the business, incorporate it and accept stock therein in payment of their respective credits. This was done, the plaintiff and the defendant becoming the two largest stockholders in the new corporation called John R. Edgar & Co., Incorporated. A few days after the incorporation was completed plaintiff and defendant entered into the following agreement:
Therefore, the undersigned mutually and reciprocally agree not to sell, transfer, or otherwise dispose of any part of their present holdings of stock in said John R. Edgar & Co. Inc., till after one year from the date hereof.
Either party violating this agreement shall pay to the other the sum of one thousand (P1,000) pesos as liquidated damages, unless previous consent in writing to such sale, transfer, or other disposition be obtained.
Notwithstanding this contract the defendant Fox on October 19, 1911, sold his stock in the said corporation to E. C. McCullough of the firm of E. C. McCullough & Co. of Manila, a strong competitor of the said John R. Edgar & Co., Inc.
This sale was made by the defendant against the protest of the plaintiff and with the warning that he would be held liable under the contract hereinabove set forth and in accordance with its terms. In fact, the defendant Foz offered to sell his shares of stock to the plaintiff for the same sum that McCullough was paying them less P1,000, the penalty specified in the contract.
Whether or not the stipulation in the contract suspending the power to sell the stock referred to therein is an illegal stipulation, is in restraint of trade and, therefore, offends public policy?
The intention of parties to a contract must be determined, in the first instance, from the words of the contract itself. It is to be presumed that persons mean what they say when they speak plain English. Interpretation and construction should by the instruments last resorted to by a court in determining what the parties agreed to. Where the language used by the parties is plain, then construction and interpretation are unnecessary and, if used, result in making a contract for the parties.
In this jurisdiction, there is no difference between a penalty and liquidated damages, so far as legal results are concerned. Whatever differences exists between them as a matter of language, they are treated the same legally. In either case the party to whom payment is to be made is entitled to recover the sum stipulated without the necessity of proving damages. Indeed one of the primary purposes in fixing a penalty or in liquidating damages, is to avoid such necessity.
The suspension of the power to sell has a beneficial purpose, results in the protection of the corporation as well as of the individual parties to the contract, and is reasonable as to the length of time of the suspension.