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Supreme Court denies claims on the basis of the third doctor rule

Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, President, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., 19 October 2018 (Issue 2018/13)
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 Supreme Court denies claims on the basis of the third doctor rule
 In two separate decisions, the Supreme Court denied the claims of seafarers as they were in violation of the conflict resolution procedure under the POEA Contract or the third doctor rule.
The current third doctor rule is found in Section 20 A (3) of the POEA Contract which states that if the doctor of the seafarer disagrees with the assessment of the company-designated physician, a third doctor may be jointly agreed upon between the parties whose decision shall be final and binding on them.   According to the Supreme Court, the third doctor rule is mandatory and non-compliance with the same would result in the upholding of the findings of the company-designated physician.
In one case, the seafarer was medically repatriated due to upper back pains and was referred to the company to the company-designated physician for further treatment.  After a series of consultations and diagnostic examinations, the seafarer was assessed with a grade “10” disability.  Pursuant to the grade “10” assessment, the company offered to compensate the seafarer.  However, the seafarer refused the offer and insisted on payment of maximum disability benefits on the belief that he is entitled to such because he can no longer go back to work.
The Labor Arbiter denied the claim of the seafarer and instead adjudged him entitled only to benefits equivalent to grade “10”.  The seafarer then appealed to the NLRC.  During the pendency of his appeal, the seafarer consulted his own doctor who issued a report assessing him to be unfit to resume sea duties.  He submitted said report to the NLRC and on which basis, he was awarded maximum disability benefits.  Eventually, the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court who adjudged the seafarer to be entitled only to benefits equivalent to a grade “10” disability.
The Supreme Court said that the only instance when the assessment of the company-designated physician may be challenged is when the seafarer likewise consulted with his personal doctor who issued a different assessment.  The conflicting assessment shall be settled by referring the matter to a neutral third party doctor whose assessment shall be final and binding. The Court noted that the seafarer only sought a second medical opinion after the denial of his claim by the Labor Arbiter and while his appeal was pending with the NLRC.  This move is but a mere afterthought and in breach of the third doctor rule.  As such, the assessment of the company-designated physician was eventually sustained.
In another case, the Supreme Court also denied a claim based on this third doctor rule.
There, the seafarer was declared fit to work by the company-designated physician after suffering from Inguinal Hernia.  Ten months after, the seafarer consulted his own doctor who assessed him to be suffering from a grade “1” disability.  On this basis, the seafarer filed a claim for disability benefits.
Both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC denied the claim but the Court of Appeals awarded disability benefits to the seafarer.
In ruling for the company, the Supreme Court again made reference to third doctor rule.  The Court faulted the seafarer in immediately filing a complaint for disability benefits after he was issued an assessment by his personal doctor instead of initiating the conflict resolution procedure in the POEA Contract which is to refer the differing assessments to a mutually agreed third doctor.  With such failure to follow the procedure, and in the absence of the opinion coming from a third doctor, the Court sustained the findings of the company-designated physician.
R. T. vs. MST Marine Services (Phils), Inc. TSM International Ltd. et. al.;  MST Marine Services (Phils), Inc. TSM International Ltd. et al. vs. R. T., G.R. Nos. 202113 and 202120, June 6, 2018, Second Division, Associate Justice Andres Reyes, ponente (our Attys. Charles Dela Cruz and Ralph Villamor handled for vessel interests)
Abosta Shipmanagement Corporation, Panstar Shipping Co., Ltd. et al, vs. R. D., G.R. No. 215111, June 20, 2018, First Division, Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo, ponente (our Attys. Joseph Rebano and Jerome Pampolina handled for vessel interests)

 Firm News
 Partners Herbert Tria, Florencio Aquino and Senior Associate Aldrich Del Rosario visited our friends in Holland America Line, Wind Star Cruises, Princess Cruises and Crystal Cruises in the west coast of the USA in September 2018. During their visit, they discussed latest developments impacting the cruise industry and the Philippine arbitration system.
Our heartfelt thanks for the warm and gracious welcome provided to DelRosarioLaw and we surely are looking forward to our next round of fruitful discussions.
Senior Associate Aldrich C. Del Rosario was a speaker at the crew conference of Lomar Shipping and Scanmar Maritime Services last 11 October 2018.   He spoke on duties and benefits of seafarers under the POEA Standard Employment Contract.
Many thanks to Lomar Shipping and Scanmar Maritime Services for the kind invitation and see you again in your future conferences.
Partner Charles Dela Cruz, Managing Associate Gina Guinto and Del Rosario Pandiphil’s Executive Manger Veronica Del Rosario visited several Clubs in the United Kingdom and Sweden early October 2018. They had several interactive meetings with partner-clients on various issues such as Filipino crew claims, NLRC and voluntary arbitration procedures as well as updates on relevant legislations such as The Seafarer's Protection Act and Data Privacy Act.
Our deepest thanks to all for the warm reception and great discussions.

reas of Specialization: Shipping, Labour, Transport, Corporate, Mergers & Acquisitions, Insurance, Immigration, Litigation, Arbitration, Intellectual Property
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Edmon Ruiz

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