Philippines Supreme Court dismisses seafarer’s claim

The Philippines Supreme Court has dismissed a seafarer’s claim for disability benefits under the POEA contract as the seafarer failed to report to the company-designated physician.

The POEA contract set out as a procedural requirement for seafarers to report to the company-designated physician for a medical examination within three days of repatriation. The contract stated that failure to comply should be grounds for the denial of disability benefits as the seafarer would be considered not to have proved the disability is work-related.

In upholding the dismissal of the claim by the Labour Arbiter, NLRC and the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court held that strict compliance to the rule was demanded because a timely examination was necessary to make a medical determination of the ailment and its relation to the seafarer’s employment.

In the present case the company alleged that the seafarer had sought repatriation for personal reasons and did not allege an ailment or file a complaint for disability benefits until sometime after repatriation. Shipowners should be aware that, should the seafarer have been repatriated due to an ailment, the company would have a reciprocal obligation to conduct a meaningful and timely medical examination of the seafarer.

Standard Club said that this was a welcome judgement for shipowners who could take confidence from the Court’s willingness to uphold the exact terms of POEA employment contracts and the assurance this provided.

The Club said that shipowners should take care to ensure they adhered strictly to their obligations under the POEA contract if they were to argue a claim should be dismissed for a seafarer’s breach of his obligations.

A. E. vs. Southfield Agencies, Inc. Wilhelmsen Ship Management Holding Ltd. et al., G.R. No. 208396, April 30, 2018, Third Division​