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Del Rosario & Del Rosario 

Shipping and the Law

Claim for loss of earnings denied; findings of company doctor upheld

By:  Ruben Del Rosario, Managing Partner, Del Rosario & Del Rosario, October 5, 2005


Seafarer worked for vessel owner for some three years from 1997 to 2000.  In November 2000, he had heart problems and he eventually had a coronary bypass after being disembarked in Rio de Janeiro.  On December 17, 2000, he was repatriated to Manila.  He was continuously treated by the company-designated physician until declared fit to work on June 27, 2001. 

Seafarer consulted his own doctor who issued a certificate of total and permanent disability.  Seafarer eventually filed a claim for loss of earnings of US$62,929 and Grade 1 total disability of US$60,000.

Both the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC Commission ruled in favor of seafarer.

The Court of Appeals decided on two issues:  whether seafarer is entitled to loss of earnings of US$62,269 and whether seafarer is entitled to total and permanent disability benefits of US$60,000.

The Court of Appeals ruled:

The Court decided the issue on loss of earnings in its first decision of 27 February 2004.  The Court of Appeals ruled that seafarer is not entitled to “loss of earnings” as awarding of the same is repugnant to the rule on double recovery.  Besides, nowhere in the POEA Standard Contract of Employment did it provide for such a grant.  The Court, however, awarded US$60,000 as total disability.

On motion for reconsideration, the Court of Appeals reversed its earlier ruling with its decision of August 16, 2005.  The Court ruled that the findings of “fit to work” by the company physician must prevail.  Sec. 20 (B) No. 2 of the (old) POEA Standard Employment Contract is clear that it is the “company-designated” physician who must declare the fitness or unfitness of the seafarer.  In this instance, the company physician who treated seafarer from the time of repatriation to the time of fitness, declared him “fit to work”.  Seafarer’s physician only saw him twice and issued his disability certificate more than 11 months after the June 27, 2001 certificate of fitness to work by the company designated physician.  The cardinal rule in the interpretation of contracts is that if the terms of a contract are clear and leave no doubt upon the intention of the contracting parties, the literal meaning of its stipulation shall control and the courts may not read into it any other intention that would contradict its plain meaning (German Marine Agencies, Inc. vs. NLRC, G.R. No. 142049, January 30, 2001, 350 SCRA 629).

Sea Power Shipping Enterprises, Inc. vs. NLRC,, CA-GR SP No. 75052, February 27, 2004 (1st Decision); August 16, 2005 (2nd Decision).