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Supreme Court denies claim based merely on bare assertions and presumptions

Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, President, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., 16 January 2018 (Issue 2018/01)
 
Supreme Court denies claim based merely on bare assertions and presumptions

After four months on-board the vessel, the seafarer who was hired as an Ordinary Seaman complained of severe pain in his knee prompting him to seek medical consult.  Thereafter, he was repatriated back to the Philippines and upon arrival was referred to the company-designated physician for further examination and treatment.  After several tests, the company-designated physician issued a final diagnosis of “Giant cell tumor, proximal tibia, left knee”.  The company-designated doctor likewise issued an opinion that the condition is not work-related.
 
The seafarer filed a complaint for disability benefits with the Labor Arbiter being armed with a second medical opinion from his personal doctor stating that he is already permanently disabled and unfit to work as a seaman because of his condition.  The seafarer argued that his working conditions on-board the vessel were stressful and strenuous with long hours of work.  He also argued that he was exposed to pollutants, various chemicals and toxic materials and hot and humid conditions on his work station on a constant basis while being exposed to the perils of the sea and strain of being away from his family.  Lastly, he also argued that the food being provided on-board the vessel were mostly meat, high in fat and cholesterol and low in fiber.  On these arguments, the seafarer prays for compensability of his condition as it was work-related.
 
The company denied the claim on the basis that medical expert opinion of the company-designated doctor has determined that the condition is not work-related.
 
The different tribunals had differing views on the matter as the Labor Arbiter awarded full disability benefits, while the NLRC dismissed the claim.  On the other hand, the Court of Appeals reinstated the award of the Labor Arbiter finding for the compensability of the illness.  When the case reached the Supreme Court the decision of the NLRC dismissing the claim was upheld.
 
The Court noted that the POEA Contract creates a disputable presumption of work-relation of the illness if the same is not listed as an occupational disease.  However, such presumption may be overcome by sufficient evidence to the contrary.  In this case, the expert medical opinion of the company-designated doctor was presented to prove non work-relation of the illness.  The Court noted that the company-designated doctor was the one who examined and performed tests and examinations on the seafarer for a substantial period of time and as such, it is his findings and evaluations which should form the basis of the seafarer’s disability claims.  On the other hand, the medical opinion of seafarer’s personal doctor, while merely echoing the findings of the company-designated doctor, failed to mention the relation of the illness to the work of the seafarer.
 
Moreover, it was only in the arguments and submissions of the seafarer where it was stated that his illness is work-related.  He enumerated the harsh conditions that a seafarer undoubtedly experiences during employment.  However, he did not explain how those conditions caused or aggravated his illness.  The Court pointed out that it is as if the seafarer merely pointed out the difficult conditions experienced by any seafarer and left it to them to infer any connection that the conditions may have on the diagnosed illness.
 
The assertions made by the seafarer in his submissions are neither backed by the expert testimony/affidavit of any competent physician nor are they supported by any evidence or testimony other than mere self-serving allegations of the seafarer which do not deserve consideration.  As such, the claim was denied as awards of compensation cannot rest entirely on bare assertions and presumptions but on substantial evidence.
   
OSG Ship Management Manila, Inc. (UK) Ltd. Et al. vs. Aris Wendel Monje, G.R. No. 214059, October 11, 2017, Second Division, Associate Justice Andres Reyes, Jr., ponente (Attys. Joseph Rebano and Saben Loyola of Del Rosario & Del Rosario handled for vessel interests)
 
Firm News
 
Del Rosario Partner Denise Cabanos was elected as Executive Vice President for 2017-2018 and President (-elect) for 2018-2019 of the Maritime Law Association of the Philippines (MARLAW). He is also a member of the Board of Trustees.

MARLAW is an organization of lawyers and other professionals engaged in the maritime practice in the Philippines. It is affiliated with the Comite Maritime Internationale (CMI) based in Antwerp, Belgium. Denise becomes the fifth DelRosarioLaw Partner at the helm of MARLAW.
Our congratulations to Denise!
 
Del Rosario Partner Florencio Aquino and Managing Associate Pedrito Faytaren, Jr. conducted an in-house seminar for the crewing managers/officers of OSM Manila last 14 December 2017.  The topics dealt with legal updates on claims of seafarers and the role of the frontliners in avoiding claims.
 
Many thanks to OSM Manila for the kind invitation and the fruitful discussions!
 
Del Rosario Managing Associate Gina Guinto was a speaker at INC Navigation Co., Inc.’s Annual Fleet Officers’ Meeting which was held last 13 December 2017 at the University of Cebu, Cebu City.   She spoke on the role of correspondents and claims handling.

Many thanks to INC Navigation Co., Inc. for the kind invitation and looking forward again to next year’s annual meeting.
 
2017 AsiaLaw Profiles:  Outstanding in Shipping, Maritime & Aviation; Recommended in Dispute Resolution  & Litigation, Insurance, Intellectual Property, Labour & Employment
 
“Del Rosario & Del Rosario is more or less unrivalled when it comes to maritime work in the Philippines” from Asia-Pacific, The Legal 500, 2014, p. 497
 
“Del Rosario & Del Rosario is often first port of call for employment law within the maritime industry, where it represents shipowners, agents, insurers and port owners.” Asia-Pacific, The Legal 500, 2014, p. 494
 
“Offers comprehensive shipping expertise. Maintains an excellent reputation for representing P&I firms and handling collision and crew casualties.  A strong team that is well known in the market.” Chambers Asia Pacific, 2014 p. 949
 
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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