Pre-Trial Brief in civil cases

In the previous article, we discussed the Supreme Court decision in Government of the Kingdom of Belgium v. Court of Appeals (G.R. 164150, 14 April 2008), which laid down the guidelines for confronting the issue of non-filing of the Appellant’s Brief. In this article, we discuss the issue of non-filing of Pre-Trial Briefs in civil cases.

In civil cases, Section 6, Rule 18 of the Revised Rules of Civil Procedure mandates that parties shall file with the court and serve on the adverse party their pre-trial briefs at least three days before the scheduled pre-trial.

As required under the Rules, the pre-trial brief must contain, among others:

(a) A concise statement of the case and the reliefs prayed for;

(b) A summary of admitted facts and proposed stipulation of facts;

(c) The main factual and legal issues to be tried or resolved;

(d) The propriety of referral of factual issues to commissioners;

(e) The documents or other object evidence to be marked, stating the purpose thereof;

(f) The names of the witnesses and the summary of their respective testimonies; and

(g) A brief statement of points of law and citation of authorities.

Section 6, Rule 18 also provides that failure to file the pre-trial brief shall have the same effect as failure to appear at the pre-trial. Hence, if the party who failed to file a pre-trial brief is the plaintiff, then he or she may be declared non-suited, and their case may be dismissed; meanwhile, if the party who failed to file a pre-trial brief is the defendant, then the plaintiff may be allowed to present his evidence ex parte and the court to render judgment on the basis thereof.

The pre-trial brief serves as a guide during the pre-trial conference so as to simplify, abbreviate, and expedite the trial. If not, indeed, to dispense with it. It is essential to the speedy disposition of disputes, and parties cannot brush it aside as a mere technicality. (Tiu v. Middleton, G.R. 134998, 19 July 1999)

Considering the purposes of a pre-trial brief, if a party is allowed to serve the brief at any time after the scheduled pre-trial or on the date of the pre-trial, the purposes of the procedure is defeated as the parties will not be given sufficient time to study the proposals of the adverse party and to decide whether or not to accept the same. (Ramos v. Spouses Alvendia, G.R. 176706, 08 October 2008)

It must be noted, however, that the dismissal of a complaint for failure to file a pre-trial brief is discretionary on the part of the trial court. If the trial court has the discretion to dismiss the case because of the plaintiff’s failure to appear at pre-trial, then the trial court also has the discretion to dismiss the case because the plaintiff failed to file the pre-trial brief. Moreover, whether an order of dismissal should be maintained under the circumstances of a particular case or whether it should be set aside depends on the sound discretion of the trial court (Republic v. Oleta, G.R. 156606, 17 August 2007)

In the case of Suico v. Hon. Lagura-Yap (G.R. 177711, 5 September 2012), the Supreme Court, ruling on the issue of failure of a party to file a pre-trial brief, applied the following guidelines which may justify the suspension of strict adherence to procedural rules: (a) matters of life, liberty, honor or property; (b) the existence of special or compelling circumstances; (c) the merits of the case; (d) a cause not entirely attributable to the fault or negligence of the party favored by the suspension of the rules; (e) a lack of any showing that the review sought is merely frivolous and dilatory; and (f) the fact that the other party will not be unjustly prejudiced thereby.

However, the Supreme Court reminded that concomitant to a liberal application of the rules of procedure should be an effort on the part of the party invoking liberality to at least explain its failure to comply with the rules. The Supreme Court further reminded members of the bar that their first duty is to comply with the rules of procedure rather than seek exceptions as loopholes.

Indeed, pre-trial rules are not to be belittled or dismissed because their non-observance may result in prejudice to a party’s substantive rights. Like all rules, they should be followed except for the most persuasive reasons when they may be relaxed to relieve a litigant of an injustice not commensurate with the degree of his thought[less]ness in not complying with the procedure. (Saguid v. Court of Appeals, G.R. . 150611, 10 June 2003).



For more of Dean Nilo Divina’s legal tidbits, please visit For comments and questions, please send an email to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *