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LAWS OF PORTO RICO.
MARRIED WOMEN. All property, real and personal belonging to either husband or wife at the time of marriage, and all subsequently acquired by either by gift, devise or descent, or by exchange for separate property or purchased with money belonging to either husband or wife is separate property. All other property acquired during the marriage, including the income of property formerly acquired, is community property. The wife may manage and dispose of her separate property and contract in reference to the same. She may sue and be sued apart from her husband in suits relating to her separate property and rights; in other cases he must be joined. The husband has the control and management of the community property during the marriage, but the wife must join in any alienation of real estate. He cannot dispose by will of more than one half of the community property, and on the decease of either husband or wife one half goes to the survivor.. The property conditions of the conjugal partnership may be controlled by marriage contract. In marriage where the husband is a Porto Rican the laws of Porto Rico relating to conjugal partnership in property prevail; otherwise the laws of the husband's country are binding. Ante-nuptial gifts are valid, but those between the spouses after marriage, with some trifling exceptions are void. Parents are required to give dowry to daughters, the proportionate amount of which is regulated by law.
DAYS OF GRACE AND HOLIDAYS. Days of grace are not allowed. Holidays are: Sundays, January 1, February 22, March 22, Good Friday, May 30, July 4, July 25, general election days, and days appointed by the President of the United States or by the Governor or the Legislative Assembly as days of fasting or thanksgiving or as holidays. When any other holiday falls on Sunday, Monday is observed. Bills and notes falling due on a holiday are payable on the next succeeding business day.
LIMITATIONS. Title to real property in possession and good faith passes in ten years; as to absent persons in twenty years; and, irrespective of good faith, in thirty years. In cases of disability, time begins to run from the removal of the same. Possession of a vessel in good faith after recorded title passes title in three years; otherwise, except as to the captain, in ten years. Merchants must keep their books five years. Possession of personal property in good faith passes title in three years; otherwise in six years. Actions against partners, and on notes, bills, cheques, dividends and drafts, on bottomry and respondentia bonds, and for libel and slander, and actions against lawyers, notaries, agents, clerks, and servants, three years. Actions against directors or stock
holders of corporations for penalty or liability three years. Actions for nego ligence one year; for recission of contract, fraud, or for passage money six months. Actions on mortgages twenty years; personal actions fifteen years. New promise or acknowledgment must be in writing, signed by party to be charged. Limitation does not run while defendant is out of the Island.
Legal interest in absence of special agreement, six per cent. Twelve per cent. may be agreed upon. If more be contracted for contract is void as to excess, and excess interest may be recovered if sued for in one year.
Deed must be drawn by a notary, executed of two witnesses not related to the parties or to the notary, and recorded. It must recite the manner in which the grantor's title was acquired, the date and place where passed, the names and domicile of the parties, a description of the property and a full and detailed statement of the consideration. The original deed is retained by the notary, who gives copies to the parties.
Chattel mortgages are not in use in Porto Rico.
COLLECTION OF DEBTS. Actions. — There is only one form of civil action, which is brought in the name of the real party in interest and is commenced by filing a written complaint, on which summons is issued.
ARREST.— May be made at any time before judgment in an action for the recovery of money or damages: 1. In action on contract when defendant is about to leave Porto Rico to defraud creditors; or in action for damages for wilsul injury to person, character or property; In action to recover property embezzled or misappropriated, by a judge, officer of a corporation, attorney, broker, agent, clerk, or other person in a fiduciary capacity; 3. In action to recover personal property unjustly detained which has been sold or removed to prevent its being found; 4. When the obligation was incurred by fraud; 5. Where defendant is about to dispose of property to defraud creditors, fraudulently declaring himself to be insolvent, Plaintiff must file affidavit and give security for costs and damages. There is no imprisonment for debt.
ATTACHMENT.— May be obtained in any action for fulfilment of an obligation including contracts, damages, claims for negligence etc. Plaintiff must file petition setting forth grounds of action, and, unless obligation has been conferred by defendant in writing in some judicial proceeding, he must also give security for costs and damages.
GARNISHHMENT.- Property of defendant in the hands of third persons may be reached on attachment proceedings as above.
JUDGMENT.— Is not a lien upon real estate. It must be satisfied first from personal property, and, if that is insufficient, then from real estate. Third
persons may be summoned and examined as to property of defendant, in their hands.
EXEMPTIONS.— For every householder having a family, a homestead estate in a farm, plantation, or lot and building to the value of five hundred dollars, occupied by him as a residence. The following are also exempt: Furniture and books to the extent of one hundred dollars, necessary house, table and kitchen furniture, including sewing machine, stove, furniture, beds etc. not exceeding two hundred dollars, wearing apparel, hanging pictures, oil paintings and drawings drawn or painted by any member of the family, family portraits, one cow with her calf, one hog with her sucking pigs, farm utensils not exceeding one hundred dollars, two oxen, two horses, or two mules, with their harness, with food for such animals for a month. Also water rights not to exceed the amount of water used for the irrigation of lands actually under cultivation and grain and vegetables actually reserved for planting within the next six months not exceeding two hundred dollars, tools of mechanics etc. not to exceed three hundred dollars, instruments of a physician, surveyor, or dentist, with their professional libraries, the professional libraries of attorneys, judges and ministers. For a minor, his dwelling, not exceeding value of two hundred dollars, with sluices and machinery not to exceed two hundred dollars, one saddle animal and one pack animal, not to exceed in value one hundred dollars. For a cartman, drayman, hackman, teamster, or laborer, two oxen, two horses, or two mules, and their harness, one cart or truck etc. For a physician, surgeon or minister one horse with vehicle and harness and fodder for one month. Earnings of a judgment debtor for thirty days when necessary for use of family. Insurance on life or debtor to amount of fifty dollars annual premium.
Any person of the age of fourteen or over may make a will. Wills may be holographic, open, closed, or nuncupative.
A holographic will may be made only by a person of full age. It must be written and dated entirely by the testator and signed by him. It must be proved in court by three witnesses to the handwriting, but need not be signed by attesting witnesses.
An open will is executed before a notary and three witnesses, who must be of full age, residents of the locality, knowing the language of the testator, and not related to the notary, his clerks or servants, or to heirs or legatees. A closed will must be signed on all the sheets by the testator, placed in a sealed envelope and authenticated by the testator as his will in the presence of a notary and five witnesses.
Wills made abroad by citizens of Porto Rico may be executed according to the laws of the place where made. Mutual wills are forbidden. There are restrictions on the amounts which a testator may leave away from his heirs.
The extensive use of the automobile which has come about since this book was originally written makes it desirable to add a few words as to the rights and duties of owners and users of these vehicles.
Generally speaking, these rights and duties relative to other users of the highway are the same as those of horse-drawn vehicles, subject to such regulations as the dangerous qualities of these powerful machines have rendered necessary for the protection of the public. On the one hand the motorist is entitled with all other members of the public to the free use of the public highways and streets; on the other hand he has no superior right of way, and cannot by blowing his horn require every one else to make way for him.
Like all other drivers of vehicles upon the public highway, the motorist is bound to use reasonable care to avoid injuring others. What is reasonable care varies with the situation in which he is placed and the degree of danger involved; what, for instance would be a reasonable rate of speed on an open country road might be recklessly excessive in a crowded city street. The very fact, however, that the machine which he operates is so powerful and capable of such high speed imposes upon him at all times the duty of a special degree of care proportionate to these dangerous qualities.
In most of the states the rate of speed permitted on the highways is regulated by statute, sometimes by specifying the maximum number of miles allowed per hour, and sometimes, as in Massachusetts, by prohibiting a rate of speed "greater than is reasonable and proper, having regard to traffic and the use of the way, and the safety of the public ”, but specifying certain rates of speed as prima facie excessive.
Driving at a rate of speed in excess of the legal limits, when an accident results, is prima facie proof of negligence, and where the death of a person is caused by wilful and reckless overspeeding the driver may be convicted of manslaughter. It is no defence in such a case that after the person injured was seen every effort was made to avoid the accident.
Keeping within the limits prescribed by statute does not however exempt the driver from all further responsibility on this point. “On the contrary" says the Court in a recent case, "he still remains bound to anticipate that he may meet persons at any point in the public street, and he must keep a proper look-out for them and keep his machine under such control as to enable him to avoid collision with another person, using proper care and caution, and if necessary, he must slow up and even stop. No blowing of a horn or of a whistle or ringing of a bell or gong, without an attempt to slacken the speed is sufficient if the circumstances demand that the speed be slackened or machine stopped, and such a course is reasonably possible. The true test is that he must use all the care and caution which an ordinarily prudent and careful driver would have exercised under the same circumstances".
A pedestrian has the same rights in the street or highway as an automobile, and is not restricted to the use of cross-walks. The motorist approaching a pedestrian in the traveled part of a highway should give warning with his horn or bell, and if necessary, slow up or stop. He is held to a special degree of care in the case of children and of old or infirm persons. On the other hand he has a right to assume that any person using the highway is in full possession of the senses of sight and hearing, and may act on that assumption until he has reason to believe the contrary. Ordinarily, a pedestrian has no right of way superior to that of the driver of a vehicle; each may continue his own course, with relative regard for the other's rights of travel, and the driver of an automobile is not bound to stop unless it is necessary to prevent a collision. Not unfrequently, a pedestrian becomes frightened or confused in his efforts to avoid an approaching automobile. In such a case it has been held that the driver should not proceed, zigzagging back and forth in the effort to avoid a collision, but should bring his machine to a stop.
As the attention of the driver must of necessity be specially concentrated on what is in front of him he is not, as a general rule required to keep a look-out backward to see whether others are approaching in his rear; but to back his machine without looking behind for the safety of others, especially when close to a cross-walk in a city street is gross and inexcusable negligence.