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Supreme Court rules in favor of seafarer in disability case


THE Supreme Court has granted the disability claim of a seafarer who injured his leg while on duty, ruling that an invalid final medical assessment of his injury makes the disability permanent under law.

In a 16-page decision made public on April 17, the tribunal ordered North Sea Marine Service Corp., Ships Leisure S.A.M., and Silversea Cruise Ltd. to pay Alexei Joseph P. Grossman disability benefits worth $60,000 with 10% interest and legal fees.

“There being no final and definite assessment of petitioner’s fitness to work or permanent disability within the prescribed periods… Which thus precludes him from pursuing his usual work as a seafarer, his disability has, by operation of law, become total and permanent,” Associate Justice Antonio T. Kho, Jr. said in the ruling.

The ruling upheld the findings of the Office of the Voluntary Arbitrators (VA), which said he was entitled to the disability benefits. The VA decision was later reversed by the Court of Appeals.

The appellate court had said the seafarer failed to prove that the conditions of his work led to his injury.

Under the Labor Code, a disability is total and permanent if the employee is unable to perform any “gainful” duties for a continuous period exceeding 120 days.

Only doctors chosen by employers may determine if a worker sustained permanent disability during employment.

Mr. Grossman was employed as a galley utility crew member of the Silver Whisper vessel for eight months in 2016.

In July 2016, he suffered a leg injury which led to surgery that resulted in a deformity of his left leg.

A company-approved doctor said Mr. Grossman’s injury was not a work-related illness and the cause was still unknown.

The High Court agreed with the VA that the company-approved doctor’s assessment had been submitted beyond the 240-day treatment period required under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s rules, which made it void.

“The court is hard-pressed not to agree with the VA’s observation that the same was a ‘mere afterthought’ which can no longer overcome petitioner’s entitlement to disability benefits,” it said. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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