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Web Alert: Filipino Supreme Court upholds employer-designated physician exam requirement

19 September 2018

The Supreme Court has dismissed a seafarer’s claim for disability benefits under the POEA contract as the seafarer failed to report to the company-designated physician.

 

POEA contract

The POEA contract sets out that it is a procedural requirement for seafarers to report to the company-designated physician for a medical examination within three days of repatriation. The contract states that failure to comply shall be grounds for the denial of disability benefits as the seafarer shall be considered not to have proved the disability is work-related.

 

Dismissal of the claim

In upholding the dismissal of the claim by the Labor Arbiter, NLRC and the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court held that strict compliance to the rule is demanded because a timely examination is necessary to make a medical determination of the ailment and its relation to the seafarer’s employment.

In the present case the company alleged that the seafarer had sought repatriation for personal reasons and did not allege an ailment or file a complaint for disability benefits until some time after repatriation. Shipowners should be aware that, should the seafarer have been repatriated due to an ailment, the company would have a reciprocal obligation to conduct a meaningful and timely medical examination of the seafarer.

 

Conclusion

This is a welcome judgement for shipowners who can take confidence from the Court’s willingness to uphold the exact terms of POEA employment contracts and the assurance this provides. Shipowners should take care to ensure they adhere strictly to their obligations under the POEA contract if they are to argue a claim should be dismissed for a seafarer’s breach of his obligations.

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A. E. vs. Southfield Agencies, Inc. Wilhelmsen Ship Management Holding Ltd. et al., G.R. No. 208396, April 30, 2018, Third Division​