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Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc.

Shipping and the Law

To be compensable, illness during repatriation must be cause of death  

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, Managing Director, Del Rosario Pandiphil Inc., March 2, 2005


Seafarer was repatriated due to nephrolithiasis (presence of stones in the kidney).  He was treated but he died some five months later due to acute myocardial infarction and diabetes milletus.  The Court of Appeals dismissed the complaint stating that death benefits are only payable if the death is brought about by the same or similar cause as the illness which caused seafarer's repatriation.  In this case, there is not showing that the illness which caused seafarer's repatriation (kidney illness) is related to the cause of death (acute mycardial infraction and diabetes mellitus).


Seafarer worked on the MV Brother Star as Chief Cook.  On December 2, 1998 he complained of back pain and was repatriated to Manila.  He was diagnosed to be suffering from nephrolithiasis (kidney stones).  He underwent two sessions of EWSL (extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy) and was to be evaluated to determine if further sessions of EWSL were needed.  Unfortunately, two weeks after his last examination, he suffered severe chest pain and was brought to the Chinese General Hospital for treatment.  He died due to carcinogenic shock (immediate cause), acute myocardial infarction (antecedent cause) and diabetic milletus (underlying cause).

His widow filed a claim for death benefits.  The Labor Arbiter awarded death benefits reasoning the that underlying cause of death which is diabetes must have been acquired during employment considering the proximity (five months) of the repatriation and death of the seafarer.  On appeal, the NLRC reversed the Labor Arbiter's decision.  The NLRC reasoned that since death occurred after employment, there must be a relation between the cause of repatriation and the death of the seafarer.  There was no proof presented to show a relation between nephrolithiasis which was the cause of repatriation and carcinogenic shock which was the cause of death.  Also, no medical report was ever submitted to show the relation between the kidney illness and diabetes milletus, the underlying cause of death.

The widow appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals ruled that there is no substantial evidence to show that nephrolithiasis, the illness which led to the repatriation, is the same illness that caused seafarer's death.  It is incumbent upon the widow to prove that kidney illness is somehow related to carcinogenic shock, myocardial infarction or diabetes milletus, the declared causes of death of the seafarer.  This is she failed to do.  Mere allegation is not equivalent to proof.

The Court of Appeals further ruled that the argument that since the seafarer was found fit to work, his diabetes must have developed during employment cannot be sustained.  The Supreme Court has already declared in Sealanes Marine Services vs. NLRC, 190 SCRA 337, 345-346 that "the issuance of a clean bill of health made by the physicians selected /accredited by the respondent corporation, it does not necessarily follow that the illness for which the seafarer died was acquired during his employment with the respondent company."  The High Court further stated that:  "the pre-employment medical examination conducted upon (seafarer) could not have divulged his disease considering the fact that  most, if not all, such examinations are not so exploratory."

The Court dismissed the complaint and upheld the decision of the NLRC.

Caroline F. Leonoras, vs. NLRC, et. al., CA GR SP NO. 83524, February 9, 2005