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Supreme Court rules that the justification of further treatment will determine whether the 120 days or 240 days rule will be followed

Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, President, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., 15 March 2018 (Issue 2018/05)
 
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Supreme Court rules that the justification of further treatment will determine whether the 120 days or 240 days rule will be followed

Seafarer suffered an ankle injury while working on-board the vessel which necessitated his repatriation.  Upon arrival in the Philippines, the seafarer was referred by the company to their designated doctors for further treatment.  He underwent surgery and rehabilitation and eventually, after 186 days of treatment, he was declared fit to work by the doctors.
 
Seafarer was not satisfied with the company-designated doctor’s findings and sought a second medical opinion where his chosen doctor declared him permanently unfit for sea duties.  On the basis of this medical certification, the seafarer filed a complaint for disability benefits with the Labor Arbiter.
 
The Labor Arbiter awarded the seafarer with full disability benefits on the ground that his disability lasted for more than 120 days.  Said decision was affirmed by both the NLRC and the Court of Appeals.
 
On petition, the Supreme Court dismissed the claim.
 
The Court held that the mere lapse of 120 days from the seafarer's repatriation without the company-designated physician's declaration of the fitness to work of the seafarer does not entitle the latter to his permanent total disability benefits.  As already laid down in several decisions, the following guidelines shall govern the seafarer's claims for permanent total disability benefits:
 
1. The company-designated physician must issue a final medical assessment on the seafarer's disability grading within a period of 120 days from the time the seafarer reported to him;
 
2. If the company-designated physician fails to give his assessment within the period of 120 days, without any justifiable reason, then the seafarer's disability becomes permanent and total;
 
3. If the company-designated physician fails to give his assessment within the period of 120 days with a sufficient justification (e.g. seafarer required further medical treatment or seafarer was uncooperative), then the period of diagnosis and treatment shall be extended to 240 days. The employer has the burden to prove that the company-designated physician has sufficient justification to extend the period; and
 
4. If the company-designated physician still fails to give his assessment within the extended period of 240 days, then the seafarer's disability becomes permanent and total regardless of any justification.
 
Here, the records reveal that seafarer was medically repatriated on 4 October 2010. It is undisputed that the company-designated physician issued a declaration as to seafarer’s fitness to work on 8 April 2011 or 186 days from his repatriation. Thus, to determine whether seafarer is entitled to his permanent total disability benefits it is necessary to examine whether the company-designated physician has a sufficient justification to extend the period.
 
Examination of the records would conclude that there is a sufficient justification for extending the period. In a report dated 11 January 2011, the company-designated physician advised seafarer to continue his rehabilitation and medications and to come back on 1 February 2011 for his repeat x-ray of the left foot and for re-evaluation. The company-designated physician has determined that seafarer’s condition needed further medical treatment and evaluation. Thus, it was premature for the seafarer to file a case for permanent total disability benefits on 4 March 2011 because at that time, he is not yet entitled to such benefits.  The company-designated physician had until 1 June 2011 or the 240th day from his repatriation to make a declaration as to seafarer's fitness to work.
 
Neither is the declaration of seafarer’s own doctor that he is unfit to return to sea duties conclusive as to seafarer’s condition. It is well-settled that the assessment of the company-designated physician prevails over that of the seafarer's own doctor. The assessment of the company-designated physician is more credible for having been arrived at after months of medical attendance and diagnosis, compared with the assessment of a private physician done in one day on the basis of an examination or existing medical records.
 
With the declaration of the company-designated physician that seafarer is already fit to return to work, the latter is not entitled to his permanent total disability benefits.
 
Teekay Shipping Philippines, Inc., and/or Teekay Shipping Ltd., et al. vs. Roberto Ramoga, Jr., G.R. No.209582, January 19, 2018, First Dvision, Associate Justice Noel Tijam, ponente
 
Author’s Note:  It is significant to note that the doctor is mandated to explain why further treatment will be necessary if it can be fairly anticipated that the initial 120 days treating period will be breached, thus, extending treatment to 240 days.  As a matter of fact, in one case, the Court held that mere statement from the company-designated doctor that “further treatment is necessary” is not considered as sufficient justification to extend the 120 days treating period to 240 days.  Thus, it is suggested that prior to the lapse of the 120th day of treatment, and aside from an interim disability being issued, the company-designated physician would also state the present complaints of the seafarer, manner of further treatment that the seafarer will still undergo and the desired result of the suggested further treatment.
 
 Firm News

The team in our Firm handling crew matters involving Filipino personnel on-board cruise lines embarked on a courtesy visit to the major cruise companies based in Miami. One encouraging development noted during the visit is that newly-built ships will be launched this year which will translate to more overseas employment opportunities for Filipinos and in turn, fuel up the economy even more. Our sincerest appreciation to our valued hosts, namely: Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Carnival Cruise Lines and Norwegian Cruise Lines for the warm reception accorded to our Attys. Herbert Tria, Catherine Mangahas and Aldrich Del Rosario.

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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The Asia 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

 

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Del Rosario & Del Rosario Partner Joseph Rebano was re-elected as Director of the Philippine Bar Association for the year 2017-2018. 

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Del Rosario Pandiphil’s Edgardo Antonio A. Del Rosario, MD, Ruth F. Manalo, RN and Irish C. Villafuerte, RN participated as resource speakers in the Officers Dialogue of Multinational Maritime Inc, MMSPhil Maritime Services Corp. and Phil-Crewing Maritime Services Inc. held at their newly inaugurated office located in Cavite City last April 21, 2018.

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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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