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NLRC decisions on “injury while on shore leave” and “heart disease”

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, Managing Partner, Del Rosario & Del Rosario, October 17, 2005


Injury while on shore leave held not work-related

On August 24, 2003 while the MV IINTER PRIDE was anchored at the port of Vastochiny, Russia, seafarer went on shore leave with four Filipino crewmates to have a few drinks.  On their way back to the vessel, they were assaulted and seafarer lost the use of his left eye.  At issue was whether the injury is compensable.

Vessel interests argued that the injury is not compensable as for an injury to be work-related, it must arise out of and in the course of employment.  In order to be considered as “arising out of the employment”, the injury must have a casual connection between the work imposed on him and the resulting injury.  In the case at bar, the injury of the complainant has no causal relation whatsoever to seafarer’s work as chief cook of the vessel.  Hence, such injury is not compensable.

Seafarer argued “that most of all, every hour and minute spent by seafarers (on international vessels) for as long as legit and allowed by the vessel authorities are to be considered as work-related.  It is actually the concept of social justice that seafarers must be given extra protection for working away from home and their families.”

The NLRC ruled that the injury is not work-related as seafarer’s “arguments is without any legal leg to stand on”.  The NLRC sided with vessel's arguments that for an injury to be work-related, the injury must have a casual connection between the work and the resulting injury.

Vigil vs. Aqualink Maritime, et. al., NLRC NCR CN. OFW (M)03-10-2675-00; CA NO> 041526-04, July 29, 2005


Heart disease ruled not work-related

On December 24, 2001, seafarer disembarked from the M.V. THEANO K as the vessel was sold.  On January 4, 2002, he had a medical checkup and it was eventually discovered that he was suffering from ischemic heart disease.  Seafarer filed a claim for disability benefits as he alleged his illness to be work-related. He said he suffered chest pains while working on board the vessel and his illness was discovered barely nine days from his disembarkation.

At issue before the NLRC was whether seafarer’s illness was work-related.  The NLRC denied the claim ruling as follows:

1.  The conditions under which cardio-vascular diseases are compensable under the POEA contract (Section 32-A, No. 11) are not present.  The conditions under the contract are as follows:

a. If the heart disease was known to have been present during employment, there must be proof that an acute exacerbation was clearly precipitated by the unsual strain by reasons of the nature of his work.

b. The strain of work that brings about an acute attack must be sufficient severity and must be followed within 24 hours by the clinical signs of a cardiac insult to continue casual relationship.

c. If a person who was apparently asymptomatic before being subjected to strain at work showed signs and symptoms of cardiac injury during the performance of his work and such symptoms and signs persisted, it is reasonable to claim a casual relationship. 

Seafarer’s claims that his condition falls under “c” above is not convincing.  Other than his bare allegations that he experienced chest pains while on board the vessel, no other evidence was presented.  Seafarer did not even report his alleged chest pains to the master or any other responsible officer of the vessel.  His contract ended without any report of illness.

2.  Seafarer claims that his illness was work-related as it was discovered barely nine days from his disembarkation.  The NLRC ruled that this is not proof that the illness is work-related.  The conditions set forth above must still be present in order for the illness to be compensable.  None of the conditions were present.

Catabay vs. Crew Case, Inc., NLRC NCR CA NO. 037486-03 (NCR-OFW-02-11-02598-00, June 30, 2005