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Supreme Court Holds Mental Illness not Compensable & Firm News


Philippine Shipping Update – Manning Industry




Just after a month into his employment, the seafarer experienced difficulty in sleeping and extreme exhaustion. He also began to see unusual visions and hear voices.  He would experience dizziness due to the smell of fumes of chemicals, loss of appetite, and weakness. He was referred to a shore doctor and was diagnosed with "major depression and psychomotor retardation" for which reason he was repatriated for further treatment.  Upon arrival, the seafarer was referred to the company-designated physician who examined him and found his condition not to be work-related or work-aggravated since there were no elicited conflicts in his associations within his work environment.  The seafarer consulted his own doctor and was recommended to undergo continuous psychological and psychiatric intervention. Eventually, the seafarer filed a complaint for the payment of permanent and total disability benefits against the company.
The Labor Arbiter, NLRC and the Court of Appeals all dismissed the claim of the seafarer finding that the illness is not work-related.  Seafarer’s claim was also dismissed by the Supreme Court.
The Court held that for disability to be compensable under the POEA-SEC, two elements must concur: (1) the injury or illness must be work-related; and (2) the work-related injury or illness must have existed during the term of the seafarer's employment contract. It is not sufficient to establish that the seafarer's illness or injury has rendered him permanently or partially disabled; it must also be shown that there is a causal connection between the seafarer's illness or injury and the work for which he had been contracted.
While the seafarer’s illness is disputably presumed to be work-related in accordance with the provisions of the POEA-SEC, it bears stressing that such legal presumption only covers work-relatedness and not compensability.  The legal presumption of work-relatedness must still be read together with the requirements of compensability under Section 32-A of the POEA-SEC.  Thus, for both listed occupational diseases under Section 32 and non-listed illnesses, the seafarer must sufficiently show by substantial evidence compliance with the conditions for compensability.
Here, the seafarer failed to sufficiently establish that his illness is work-related and compensable. To prove work-relation of the illness, it is necessary for evidence to show his actual duties, the nature of his illness, and other factors that may lead to the conclusion that his work conditions brought about, or at the very least, increased the risk of contracting his complained illness. However, aside from his bare statement that he worked as an able seaman on board the ship, there are no records showing what his specific duties were. Moreover, his general assertion of experiencing "dizziness when he smells the fumes of chemicals he was working on" is insufficient to conclude that his work brought about or increased the risk of his depression. Notably, even the medical evaluation by his own doctor did not mention anything about his duties as a seafarer, or the risks involved thereto.
Moreover, the employer was able to successfully overturn the legal presumption that seafarer’s illness is work-related. It bears noting that the seafarer previously executed an affidavit stating that he was employed under fair working conditions and without any maltreatment by the officers or crew of the ship.  Additionally, he declared that he did not suffer any injury or any traumatic experiences onboard causing his inability to sleep. Absent any mention of seafarer's duties and the risks involved in his work, it cannot be reasonably concluded that it caused or aggravated his depression.
Efraim Darroca, Jr. vs. Century Maritime Agencies, Inc. and/or Damina Shipping Corp., and/or J.D., G.R. No. 234392, November 10, 2021, Second Division, Justice Ramon Paul Hernando, ponente


DelRosarioLaw Partners enriched their relationship with Tokio Marine& Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd. through a Zoom virtual meeting with the latter’s claims team from various offices held on 4 July 2022. The learning session was given by our Partners Joseph Rebano and Florencio Aquino who provided updates on the crew claims landscape in the Philippines.  An interactive session on related topics then ensued. We would like to thank TMNF for the fruitful meeting and we look forward to more mutually beneficial meetings – online or in-person – in the future.




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“Specialising in maritime law, Del Rosario & Del Rosario is best known for acting for multinational clients in disputes relating to oil pollution, damaged cargo, salvage and vessel arrest. The group also has an extensive labour practice which is active in a full range of disputes involving Filipino seafarers. Del Rosario advise a variety of noteworthy clients, including shipping companies, insurers and P&I clubs.” 2021 Legal 500 Asia Pacific.





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Edmon Ruiz

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