In this issue:
A seaman figured in an accident while conducting routine emergency drills on 1 March 1999. He was eventually repatriated on 13 March 1999 and was referred to the company-designated physician for examination and treatment. On 11 February 2000, the seaman was declared fit to work by the company-designated physician but he refused to sign his certificate of fitness to work. Prior to being declared fit to work, the seaman already filed a complaint with the NLRC for payment of disability benefits, medical expenses, damages, and attorney’s fees. He claimed entitlement to permanent total disability benefits as more than 120 days had passed since he was repatriated for medical treatment but he was yet to be declared fit to work by the company-designated physician.
The Labor Arbiter ruled in favor of the seaman and awarded US$60,000 disability benefits
The NLRC reversed the decision of the Labor Arbiter and dismissed the complaint as seaman was declared fit to work.
The Court of Appeals reinstated the decision of the Labor Arbiter with respect to the award of disability benefits as seaman was unable to work for more than 120 days and thus considered as totally and permanently disabled.
The Supreme Court sustained the Court of Appeals but applying the 240 day principle.
The Court again quoted the ruling in Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc. that for the duration of the treatment but in no case to exceed 120 days, the seaman is on temporary total disability as he is totally unable to work. He receives his basic wage during this period until he is declared fit to work or his temporary disability is acknowledged by the company to be permanent, either partially or totally, as his condition is defined under the POEA SEC and the applicable Philippine laws. If the 120 days initial period is exceeded and no such declaration is made because the seafarer requires further medical attention, then the temporary total disability period may be extended up to a maximum of 240 days, subject to the right of the employer to declare within this period that a permanent partial or total disability already exists. The seaman may of course also be declared fit to work at any time such declaration is justified by his medical condition.
The Court ruled that it was more than 11 months or approximately 335 days have lapsed from the repatriation of the seaman up to the time he was declared fit to work. It is evident that the maximum 240-day medical treatment period expired without a declaration of the respondent’s fitness to work or the existence of his permanent disability determined. Seaman’s temporary total disability therefore should be deemed permanent and thus, he is entitled to permanent total disability benefits.
Fair Shipping Corp and/or Kohyu Marine Co., Ltd. Vs. Joselito Medel; G.R. No. 177907; First Division, August 29, 2012; AJ Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Ponente