Web Alert: Filipino Disputable Presumption of Work-Related Illness clause requires proof
31 October 2017
The Philippines Supreme Court has held that Filipino seafarers must prove that an illness is work-related to claim under the POEA Contract, even though the illness is disputably presumed to be work-related.
The first instance court heard a seafarer was diagnosed with a cyst whilst on board the vessel and was treated the next day at a shore medical facility with the cyst being removed. The illness causing the cyst was not included in the list of work-related occupational diseases under the POEA Contract. After treatment the seafarer returned to the vessel and continued his employment.
Following the contract ending two months later under a probationary employment clause, the seafarer was repatriated. The seafarer saw his personal doctor who issued a certificate confirming he was permanently unfit for sea service.
The seafarer argued that he had persistent symptoms resulting from the cyst, that his employment was terminated due to the condition and that he was entitled to disability benefits.
The Philippines Supreme Court found that the seafarer was not medically repatriated and that, although a condition not listed as an occupational disease under the POEA Contract has a disputable presumption that it is work-related, the seafarer cannot simply rely on this presumption and must prove the illness is work-related.
The case affirms that the burden of proof that an illness is work-related lies with seafarers when the illness is not included in the list of occupational diseases under the POEA Contract. The stance taken by the Supreme Court will be welcomed by shipowners for providing clarity and confirming a sensible approach to assessing claims. Owners will be comforted that the judgement will set a precedent that they should not be required to prove a negative to avoid liability.
Owners are advised to keep clear records explaining the reasons crew are repatriated and obtain crew confirmation where possible in order to assist them counter future claims that crew were medically repatriated and entitled to compensation.
Mario Madridejos vs. NYK-Fil Shipmanagement, Inc., G.R. No. 204262, June 7, 2017, Second Division.