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Almirante: Compensability of seafarer’s injury

Almirante: Compensability of seafarer’s injury

ON AUGUST 14, 2015, petitioner John A. Oscares was hired by respondent SK Shipping (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. through its manning agent, respondent Magsaysay Maritime Corp. as a second assistant engineer on board the vessel mv K. Garnet. On Nov. 4, 2015, while the vessel was anchored in Panama, Oscares was singing while jumping in front of a video machine together with another crew member when he slipped and fell out of balance. As a result, he suffered major knee injuries.

On Dec. 10, 2015, Oscares was repatriated to Manila. Upon his arrival, he reported to respondents who referred him to NGC Medical Specialist Clinic Inc. for post-employment medical examination and management. After he underwent x-ray, the result revealed that he had a complete oblique fracture of the right medial condyle. Thus, he was recommended to undergo major knee surgery. Respondent insisted that Oscares should shoulder the cost of his surgery. His employment being covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), he filed a complaint for permanent disability benefits before the Panel of Voluntary Arbitrators.

Does his complaint prosper?

Ruling: Yes, with qualification.

We resolve to grant disability compensation to Oscares equivalent to Grade 10 as recommended by respondents’ designated physician.

In the case of Luzon Stevedoring Corp. v. Workmen’s Compensation Commission, 193 Phil. 91, (1981), the Court held that “acts reasonably necessary to health and comfort of an employee while at work, such as satisfaction of his thirst, hunger, or other physical demands, or protecting himself from excessive cold, are incidental to the employment and injuries sustained in the performance of such acts are compensable as arising out of and in the course of employment.” Similar to Iloilo Dock & Engineering Co., Luzon Stevedoring Corp. also involves Act 3428. Even so, we find that its ruling applies here since Act 3428, like the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC), also makes personal injury from any accident arising out of and in the course of the employment compensable.

In this case, Oscares’ act of singing can be considered necessary to his health and comfort while on board the vessel. He incurred his injury while he was performing this act. Oscares neither willfully injured himself nor acted with notorious negligence. Notorious negligence is defined as something more than mere or simple negligence or contributory negligence; it signifies a deliberate act of the employee to disregard his own personal safety. Jumping while singing cannot be considered as a reckless or deliberate act that is unmindful of one’s safety. There is nothing inherently dangerous about jumping while singing. Respondents themselves did not allege that Oscares intentionally injured himself or was negligent.

The truth is that he simply lost his balance. Accordingly, Oscares’ injury is compensable. In fact, no less than respondents’ designated physician assessed a disability of Grade 10 for Oscares’ injury. Respondents’ designated physician initially made this assessment on March 16, 2016, or 91 days after Oscares was repatriated. Afterwards, Oscares continued to receive therapy60 and consult with the company-designated physician. The final disability assessment was made on July 28, 2016, or 231 days after Oscares’ repatriation. Notably, Oscares offered to consult another physician but respondents did not respond to his offer. Respondents claim though that Oscares consulted his own physician even before respondents’ designated physician issued the final assessment.

Taking into consideration the medical certificates and laboratory test results detailing the extent and nature of Oscares’ injury, we find that the impediment assessment of Grade 10 (20.15 percent) is reflective of his medical status and resulting incapacity.

We apply the same grading disability to Oscares’ injury. Following the POEA-SEC, the corresponding rate of compensation for his injury is US$10,075.00 or its peso equivalent. Oscares’ injury does not qualify for a Grade 1 rating under Section 32 of the POEA-SEC. The medical conditions affecting the lower extremities under the PO EA-SEC that are more severe in nature than Oscares’ condition and qualify for a Grade 1 rating include loss of both feet at ankle joint or above, failure of [sic] fracture of both hips to unite, and paralysis of both lower extremities. (John A. Oscares vs. Magsaysay Maritime Corp., et al., G.R. 245858, Dec. 2, 2020).