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Supreme Court denies claim based on lung cancer due to seafarer's history of smoking

Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry
 
By:  Ruben Del Rosario, President, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., 27 November 2018 (Issue 2018/15)
 
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 Supreme Court denies claim based on lung cancer due to seafarer's history of smoking
 
 Based on records, the seafarer finished his employment contract as Motorman without event and was repatriated.  More than two years after, the seafarer died due to complications of lung cancer.  On this basis, seafarer’s wife claimed for death benefits against the company. 
 
The wife alleged that during the employment, the seafarer relayed to him that he was suffering from bouts of coughing, chest pains and shortness of breath.  That this condition was brought to the attention of the Master but the seafarer was merely told to take cough medicines and rest.  It was further alleged that after finishing his employment and being repatriated, the seafarer sought medical assistance from the company but he was not referred to the company-designated physician.  This prompted him to seek medical treatment at his own expense where he was diagnosed with lung cancer.  A little over two years from repatriation, the seafarer died due to complications of lung cancer.  The wife argued that the working conditions of the seafarer exposed him to harmful substances that eventually caused his lung cancer.
 
The claim was denied by the company as the seafarer died after the term of his employment for an illness which is not wok-related.  The company argued that based on the medical reports of the seafarer, he was a one pack a day smoker for the past 37 years.   Also, the company argued that the seafarer failed to comply with the three days mandatory reportorial requirement under the POEA Contract.   
 
The Labor Arbiter denied the claim for death benefits on the basis that the seafarer failed to report to the company-designated physician within three days from repatriation. 
 
On the other hand, the NLRC sustained the argument of the wife that the seaman reported to the company to request for medical examination after repatriation but was not minded.  The NLRC likewise held that the illness from which the seaman died is work-related as he was exposed to toxic fumes during his employment. 
 
Upon petition, the Court of Appeals reinstated the decision of the Labor Arbiter.
 
With the Supreme Court, the denial of benefits was sustained.
 
The cause of seafarer’s death is not work-related
 
The first requirement for claiming death benefits is to prove that the seafarer’s death is work-related.  This is accomplished by establishing that: (a) the cause of death was reasonably connected to the seafarer’s work; or (b) the illness which caused the seafarer’s death is an occupational disease as defined under the POEA Contract; or (c) the working conditions aggravated or exposed the seafarer to the disease which caused his death.
 
The Court held that while lung cancer is not a listed occupational disease, it enjoys the presumption of work-relation which may be disputed by the company by presenting substantial evidence to the contrary.  In this case, the medical abstract of the seafarer shows that he was a heavy smoker for the past 37 years who stopped 5 years prior to his death.  The medical records specifically identified the intensity of the seafarer’s previous smoking habits in relation to his diagnosis.  His work as a motorman and the alleged exposure to harmful substances was not even mentioned as a contributing factor to his illness and cause of death. Thus, the Court deduced that the lung cancer of the seaman was caused by his own smoking habits and not by his employment as a seafarer.
 
The death of the seafarer occurred outside the term of his employment
 
The second requirement for successfully claiming death benefits is proof that the seafarer died during the term of his contract.  As an exception to the rule, death benefits are due even if the seafarer dies outside employment as long as he was medically repatriated on account of a work-related injury or illness.
 
In this case, the seafarer died two years after being removed from employment and as such, the death cannot be considered to have occurred during the contract.  Neither will the exception apply as the seafarer was repatriated due to completion of his contract and was not medically repatriated.  The allegation that the seafarer was complaining about his health during the time he was employed was unsubstantiated by any evidence.  All the evidence the wife presented were medical records dated after the repatriation of the seafarer.  
 
Heirs of M. O. vs. BSM Crew Service Centre Philippines, Inc., and/or Bernhard Schulte Ship Management (Cyprus) Ltd. et al., G.R. No. 218330, June 27, 2018, Second Division, Associate Justice Andres Reyes, Jr., ponente (Attys. Charles Dela Cruz and Aldrich Del Rosario of DelRosarioLaw handled for vessel interests)
 
 Firm News
 
 
Del Rosario & Del Rosario welcomes new lawyers to the firm as Junior Associates, namely:
 
Leslie Ann D. Jose, is a 2007 Bachelor of Arts in History graduate of University of the Philippines and a 2016 Bachelor of Laws graduate of University of Sto. Tomas.  She was an Associate at Abes Mariano & Malong prior to joining DelRosarioLaw. 
 
Rowneylin SJ. Sia, is a 2011 Bachelor of Arts in Political Science graduate of University of the Philippines and a 2015 Bachelor of Laws graduate of San Beda College, Manila.  Prior to joining DelRosarioLaw, she was a Legal Officer at the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs and Good Governance under the Presidential Communications Operations. 
 
All the best and welcome again to the firm!
 
Areas of Specialization: Shipping, Labour, Transport, Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, Insurance, Immigration, Litigation, Arbitration, Intellectual Property
 
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“Del Rosario & Del Rosario has the strongest shipping practice in the Philippines. They definitely deserves the top ranking.” AsiaLaw Profiles 2018
 
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“For almost four decades, DelRosarioLaw has led in the shipping and transport practice in the Philippines by assisting stakeholders in fostering institutional changes to ensure the continued viability of the local shipping and manning sectors. This enduring reputation has made the firm’s opinion in major maritime policies of the country most sought after.” Chambers Asia-Pacific 2018 
 
This publication aims to provide commentary on issues affecting the manning industry, analysis of recent cases and updates on legislation.  It is meant to be brief and is not intended to be legal advice.  To subscribe or for further information, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .
 
 
 
 

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The Top 100 list of lawyers can be accessed as follows:
https://www.vantageasia.com/asia-business-law-journal/Philippines-lawyers/#INTRODUCTION

 

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Downloads

  • IRR Seafarer's Protection Act
  • Seafarers Protection Act
  • ORDINANCE No. 28 Series of 2015 Zambales, Philippines
  • NLRC MEMO on 3rd Doctor
  • NLRC Rules of Procedure 2011
  • Standard Terms and Conditions of Del Rosario Law
  • POEA SEC - 2010 Amendments
  • POEA Memorandum Circular No. 10 Series of 2010
  • Governing Board Resolution No. 09 Series of 2010

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