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Web Alert: Supreme Court rules death during shore leave is not work related and hence not compensable

08 April 2013

The Philippines Supreme Court has ruled that a crewman’s death whilst on shore leave was not compensable as it was not work-related. (Susana Sy vs Philippine Transmarine Carriers Inc and/ or SSC Ship Management Pte Ltd).

Facts

A Filipino crewman was discovered to have drowned after answering a call of nature by a river whilst he was on shore leave. The crewman’s widow filed a claim for death compensation, arguing that her husband had died during the course of his employment.

The Labor Arbiter awarded death benefits to the crewman’s widow under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration standard employment contract (POEA SEC) and this decision was affirmed by the NLRC. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision and the claimant appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s decision

The Supreme Court held that the claimant was not entitled to death benefits. The POEA SEC relevantly provides that in order for disability or death to be compensable, it must:

1- Be work-related; and

2- Arise during the term of a crewman’s employment contract.

The Supreme Court ruled that although the crewman’s employment with the respondent continued whilst the crewman was on shore leave, his death was not work-related and, therefore, was not compensable. At the time of his death, the crewman was in no different a position to any other person who might have suffered the same mishap.