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Supreme Court rules that claim is premature when filed before lapse of 240 days treatment

Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, President, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., 27 May 2019 (Issue 2019/06)

 

 

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Supreme Court rules that claim is premature when filed before lapse of 240 days treatment
 
Seafarer was engaged as Chief Cook on-board the vessel.  His employment was covered by the International Bargaining Forum All Japan Seamen's Union/Associated Marine Officers' and Seamen's Union of the Philippines-International Mariners Management Association of Japan (IBF JSU/AMOSUP-IMMAJ) Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). While in the performance of his duties, the seafarer experienced pain in his right leg radiating to his lower extremities. He reported the matter to the Master of the vessel who, in turn, brought him to a shore hospital. There, he was diagnosed to be suffering from urinary stone in his right urinary tract and was prescribed pain reliever drugs. Due to persistent back and leg pains, he was again taken to a shore hospital where the doctor recommended his repatriation for further management and treatment.
 
Upon arrival in Manila, the seafarer was referred to the company-designated physician for medical evaluation, examination and treatment. He was diagnosed with “Lumbar Spondylosis; L4-L5 Diffuse Bulge with Resultant Bilateral Neural Foraminal Stenosis; L5-Sl Diffuse Disc Bulge with Radial Tear; and L5-Sl Disc Desiccation”.  The seafarer was advised to undergo physical therapy to address his medical condition.  Thereafter, the company-designated physician issued a medical opinion that seafarer’s lumbar disorder is degenerative in nature with an interim disability assessment of grade “8”.  The seafarer then continued his therapy with the company-designated physician. However, despite continued therapy sessions, the seafarer filed a complaint with the Labor Arbiter against the company for payment of permanent and total disability benefits
 
Thereafter, the seafarer consulted another doctor who declared him unfit for sea duty.  It is on this basis that he argues for payment of disability benefits under the CBA considering that his lumbar condition was due to the fact that he fell to the floor after carrying a heavy sack of rice.  On the other hand, the company denied the claim as the same was pre-existing.  At the most, the entitlement of the seafarer should only be US$16,795 based on the grade “8” assessment of the company-designated physician.
 
The Labor Arbiter awarded maximum disability benefits of US$118,800 to the seafarer based on the CBA which the NLRC upheld on appeal.  With the Court of Appeals, the award of disability benefits was modified to US$60,000 based on the maximum benefits under the POEA Contract.  It was held that the CBA was not applicable as the fact of accident was not proven.  Both parties petitioned to the Supreme Court.
 
With the Supreme Court, the award was further modified to US$16,795 based on the grade “8” disability issued by the company-designated physician.
 
The CBA is not applicable
 
The Court did not apply the CBA as it was not convinced there was evidence to show that seafarer met an accident on board the vessel that caused his injury. There was no accident report or any medical report issued indicating that seafarer figured in an accident while on board. Moreover, the Medical Report issued by the shore physician did not mention that his injury was caused by an accident on board but instead noted that the primary cause of the injury was: "Pain occurred at his right leg up to his pelvis during standing for a long period of time." As such, seafarer’s claim that he met an accident on board was based on pure allegations. It is basic that the seafarer must prove his own assertions and his failure to discharge the burden of proving that he was covered by the CBA militates against his entitlement to any of its benefits.
 
Seafarer’s reliance on the Court's ruling in NFD Int'l Manning Agents, lnc./Barber Ship Mgmt. Ltd. v. lllescas is misplaced. In the Illescas case, the Court held that Illescas' disability, while not caused by an accident, was still compensable under the CBA as the CBA contained a permanent medical unfitness clause which stated that a seafarer who becomes disabled as a result of any injury shall be entitled to compensation. This is not the case here. As aptly observed by the CA, there was no similar provision in the IBF JSU/AMOSUP-IMMAJ, which is the CBA effective at the time of seafarer's employment with the company. The grant of disability benefits under the IBF JSU/AMOSUP-IMMAJ CBA is confined only to "… accident whilst in the employment of the Company regardless of fault, including accidents occurring while travelling to or from the ship, and whose ability to work as a seafarer is reduced as a result thereof but excluding permanent disability due to willful acts, …".  As the seafarer failed to prove by substantial evidence that his disability was caused by an accident, there is no basis in awarding him disability benefits under the CBA. As the CBA is inapplicable, seafarer's entitlement to disability benefits is therefore governed by the POEA Contract and relevant labor laws which are deemed written in the contract of employment with the company.
 
The seafarer suffered from a work-related and compensable illness
 
The company argued that the seafarer’s illness is not compensable as it is not work-related.  This belief was based on the report of the company-designated physician that seafarer’s condition is degenerative and pre-existing. However, this argument was struck down by the Court as there is no categorical and definite declaration that seafarer’s medical condition is not work-related.
 
Further, the Court affirmed the findings of the Labor Arbiter, NLRC and the Court of Appeals that seafarer’s work as chief cook aggravated his condition.  The Court noted that the seafarer’s duties involved heavy manual labor such as carrying the heavy provisions of the ship, preparation and serving of all meals for the entire crew of the vessel, cleaning of dining, kitchen and work areas and of utensils. As such, while the seafarer’s lumbar spondylosis may be degenerative, there was sufficient basis to rule that his condition was aggravated by the nature of his work.
 
The claim filed by the seafarer was premature
 
The Court again stated the rule that a temporary total disability becomes permanent when so declared by the company-designated physician within the period allowed, or upon expiration of the maximum 240-day medical treatment period in case of absence of a declaration of fitness or permanent disability.
 
In this case, the seafarer was given medical attention by the company-designated physician and opined that seafarer’s lumbar spondylosis will require further treatment. While still continuously receiving medical treatment from the company-designated physicians, seafarer filed a claim for disability benefits just 141 days from repatriation.   Evidently, it was premature for the seafarer at this time to invoke his claim for total and permanent disability inasmuch as the 240-day period had not yet lapsed. At the time he filed his complaint, he was still under temporary total disability. Instead of continuing his treatment which is still within the 240-day period allowed for the company-designated physician to evaluate his condition, he filed a case for total and permanent disability benefits despite the absence of a definite finding from the company-designated physician. He was armed only with the interim assessment of the company-designated physician which did not give him the cause of action for his claim. Moreover, it was only after the filing of such complaint that he sought the opinion of his own physician. As such, the complaint should have been dismissed for lack of cause of action.
 
From the foregoing, the seafarer had no cause of action for total and permanent disability claim. At most, he is only qualified to claim partial permanent disability benefits equivalent to Grade 8 disability rating under the POEA Contact, as reflected in the company-designated physician’s last assessment report.
 
E. T. vs. Eastgate Maritime Corporation, F.J. Lines, Inc., Panama et al.; Eastgate Maritime Corporation, F.J. Lines, Inc., Panama et al. vs. E. T., G.R. Nos. 215904 and 216165, January 10, 2019, Third Division, Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, ponente 
 
 
Firm News
 
 
Del Rosario & Del Rosario Law named as one of the best Philippine law firms in 2018 by Asia Business Law Journal
 
Prestigious law publication Asia Business Law Journal has named Del Rosario & Del Rosario as one of the top law firms In the Philippines specifically for the fields of Insurance and Reinsurance as well as Shipping and Maritime. Asia Business Law Journal writes: ”Del Rosario & Del Rosario, a four-decades-old firm, is considered to be among the top shipping and maritime practices in the country. It has also built a formidable reputation in insurance and reinsurance, and has more than 30 lawyers, including 10 partners.”
 
Previously, Asia Law has ranked Del Rosario & Del Rosario as outstanding in the field of shipping and is a mainstay figure in the Legal 500.
 
Many thanks to all our clients, colleagues and friends for your continued trust and support in the firm as we continue to strive in delivering service which exceeds client’s expectations.
 
 
Del Rosario & Del Rosario Law visits Singapore
 

DelRosarioLaw Senior Associates Richard Sanchez and Maricris Ferrer attended the 2-day Skuld School course held at The Westin Singapore from 7-8 May 2019.  The course aims to introduce attendees to the rudiments of P&I insurance and discusses issues for a good working knowledge of the subject.
 
Richard and Maricris also took the opportunity to visit and touch base with other Singapore based Clubs to discuss different legal issues in the Philippines. 
 
Our heartfelt thanks to Skuld and all our friends from the Singapore offices of Gard, North of England, Steamship, West of England, UK P&I, Britannia P&I, Standard Club, Japan P&I and Shipowners P&I for your gracious hospitality and the invaluable discussions we had.

 

 

 

Areas of Specialization: Shipping, Labour, Transport, Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, Insurance, Immigration, Litigation, Arbitration, Intellectual Property
 
2018 AsiaLaw Profiles: Outstanding in Shipping, Maritime & Aviation; Recommended in Dispute Resolution & Litigation, Intellectual Property, Labour & Employment

“Del Rosario & Del Rosario has the strongest shipping practice in the Philippines. They definitely deserves the top ranking.” AsiaLaw Profiles 2018

“We rely on them when there’s a problem. We can trust them. And they can deliver the service required.” The Legal 500 2018

“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


Del Rosario & Del Rosario, a four-decades-old firm, is considered to be among the top shipping and maritime practices in the country. It has also built a formidable reputation in insurance and reinsurance, and has more than 30 lawyers, including 10 partners.” The Philippines Law Firm Awards 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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TheAsia Business Law Journal has named Managing Partners Arturo Del Rosario, Jr. and Ruben Del Rosario and Senior Partner Joseph Rebano as one of the Philippines Top 100 Lawyers in their recently published list.

The Top 100 list of lawyers can be accessed as follows:

https://www.vantageasia.com/asia-business-law-journal/Philippines-lawyers/#INTRODUCTION

 

DelRosarioLaw welcomes Ruben Jose G. Del Rosario Jr., as a Junior Associate of the firm. He is a 2011 Bachelor of Science in Management, Major in Legal Management graduate of Ateneo de Manila and a 2017 Bachelor of Laws graduate of San Beda College - Alabang.

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Partner Charles Dela Cruz spoke on "Nuances of Retirement Law in the Philippines" at the 2nd HR Compliance Conference held on September 25-26, 2018 at SMX Aura Convention in Bonifacio Global City.

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Partners Charles Dela Cruz and Herbert Tria spoke on “Current Crew Claims Handling Issues related to the Data Privacy Act” at the 7th Annual Magsaysay Shipping and Logistics’ Marine Insurance Seminar held on 21 September 2018 at Robert Hall, Times Plaza Building, Manila.

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DelRosarioLaw Senior Partner Charles Jay Dela Cruz was elected as member of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) for the term 2018-2019.

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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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