January 18th, 2010

Supreme Court rejects benefits as seafarer failed to submit to medical examination within three days from repatriation

A seafarer must submit himself to a post employment medical examination by the company designated physician within three working days from repatriation.

In this case, seafarer/petitioner was hired as chief cook for a 3-month contract of employment. While on board the vessel, he felt a throbbing pain in his chest and shortening of breath. Upon completion of his contract, he was repatriated and immediately reported to vessel interests/respondents his condition but that he was never referred to a doctor for consultation. Seven months after, petitioner sought re-employment and during his PEME he was diagnosed with error of refraction, hyperglycemia, cardiac dysrhythmia and atrial fibrillation with rapid value response. He was declared unfit for sea duties and was denied further deployment.

Petitioner sought the opinion of a private doctor and was assessed with an Impediment Grade IX and that his illness was work-aggravated. He then filed a complaint for payment of permanent disability benefits, medical reimbursement, sickness allowance, compensatory damages, moral damages, exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.

The Labor Arbiter, the NLRC and the Court of Appeals dismissed seafarer’s complaint. Both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC discredited seafarer’s allegation that he reported his medical condition to the manning agent.

The Supreme Court denied the petition. The Court ruled that petitioner was repatriated not on account of any illness or injury, but due to completion of contract. The records are bereft of any documentary proof that he had referred his illness to a nurse or doctor in order to avail of proper treatment regarding his condition. But even assuming that petitioner was repatriated for medical reasons, the Court said that petitioner failed to submit himself to the company-designated physician for medical examination within three days from his arrival. Petitioner submitted himself for medical examination to the company-designated physician only seven months after his repatriation following the completion of his employment contract. Thus, failure to comply with this requirement bars the filing of any claim for disability benefits.

Dionisio Musnit vs. Sea Star Shipping Corporation and Sea Star Shipping Corporation, Ltd. ;  G.R. No. 182623; First Division; December 4, 2009 ; Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales, Ponente.