Mangubat vs Dalisay Shipping Corporation Case Digest

CELSO S. MANGUBAT v. DALISAY SHIPPING CORPORATION, GR No. 226385, 2019-08-19

Facts:

Complainant [(petitioner herein)] was contracted by the respondents to work as an oiler on board the vessel M.V. SG Capital [for] a period of [10 months].

He joined the vessel on February 19, 2014.

On February 28, 2014, complainant and the 4th Engineer performed maintenance work on the motor of a purifier situated at a narrow area. While they were trying to lift the motor, complainant took a step but went out of balance and fell off with his right leg hitting the deck floor

Complainant was brought to a hospital in Australia and was repatriated for medical treatment on March 14, 2014.

Complainant was referred to the company-designated physician and specialist at the Marine Medical Services of the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

As of May 5, 2014, complainant’s range of motion of his right knee was 0 to 110 degrees (normal is 0 to 135) but swelling in his right knee was noted and-complainant complained of right knee pain

As of July 11, 2014, the range of motion of complainant’s right knee was already full and complainant can do one leg squat, but complainant claimed to still have an on and off pain in his right knee.

The company-designated surgeon, who further noted that complainant has no calf atrophy and needed no further physical therapy, declared complainant as fit to work.

Complainant presented a medical certificate dated September 23, 2014 issued by the San Geronimo General Hospital in Morong, Rizal indicating that complainant was “treated” thereat from “July 9, 2014 up to present 9/23/2014” with the remarks that complainant needs further physical therapy, probably another year of intense therapy, because of muscle atrophy in right lower extremity

During the conciliation proceedings under the Single-Entry Approach (SEnA) of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), petitioner moved for the referral of the matter to a third doctor.[7] The conciliator-mediator, however, denied the request claiming it was not the SEnA’s jurisdiction to rule on such matter.

As a result of this, on October 22, 2014, petitioner filed the complaint against respondents Dalisay Shipping Corporation, Wealth Shipping Limited and Danny Dadila (respondents).

In his Decision dated February 17, 2015, the LA ruled that petitioner is not entitled to disability benefits.

The LA found that respondents provided petitioner with medical care by addressing his injury through surgical procedures, physical therapy, medical tests, and monitoring until his range of motion on his right knee was restored to normal and he became ambulatory without difficulty and with weight-bearing capacity.[… the LA relied on the findings of the company-designated physician that petitioner was already fit to work and was therefore not entitled to disability benefits.

The NLRC affirmed the LA Decision but directed the payment of financial assistance in the amount of USD7,000.00.[16] The NLRC found that the findings of the company-designated physician were more credible than that of the seafarer’s physician and that petitioner failed to prove his entitlement to permanent and total disability benefits.

The CA ruled that the LA and the NLRC already conducted a painstaking review of the evidence submitted by the parties and concluded that petitioner’s injury in his knee was only partial and already addressed and cured.[21] The CA also ruled that when the factual findings of the NLRC coincide with that of the LA, and both of which are supported by substantial evidence, these are accorded great respect and finality.

Issues:

Whether the CA acted correctly in dismissing the petition for certiorari.

The NLRC and the LA were both correct in ruling that petitioner was fit to work based on the findings of the company-designated physician and that petitioner failed to prove that he was entitled to disability benefits.

Section 20(A) of the 2010 Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Standard Employment Contract 28 states: SECTION 20. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITSA. COMPENSATION AND BENEFITS FOR INJURY OR ILLNESS. The liabilities of the employer when the seafarer suffers work-related injury or illness during the term of his contract are as follows: x x x xx x x However, if after repatriation, the seafarer still requires medical attention arising from said injury or illness, he shall be so provided at cost to the employer until such time he is declared fit or the degree of his disability has been established by the company-designated physician. In addition to the above obligation of the employer to provide medical attention, the seafarer shall also receive sickness allowance from his employer in an amount equivalent to his basic wage computed from the time he signed off until he is declared fit to work or the degree of disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician. The period within which the seafarer shall be entitled to his sickness allowance shall not exceed 120 days. Payment of the sickness allowance shall be made on a regular basis, but not less than once a month.x x x xFor this purpose, the seafarer shall submit himself to a post-employment medical examination by a company-designated physician within three working days upon his return except when he is physically incapacitated to do so, in which case, a written notice to the agency within the same period is deemed as compliance. In the course of the treatment, the seafarer shall also report regularly to the company-designated physician specifically on the dates as prescribed by the company-designated physician and agreed to by the seafarer. Failure of the seafarer to comply with the mandatory reporting requirement shall result in his forfeiture of the right to claim the above benefits. If a doctor appointed by the seafarer disagrees with the assessment, a third doctor may be agreed jointly between the Employer and the seafarer. The third doctor’s decision shall be final and binding on both parties.

From the foregoing, after medical repatriation, the company-designated physician must assess the seafarer’s fitness to work or the degree of his disability. After this, the seafarer may choose his own doctor to dispute the findings of the company-designated physician, and if there is conflict, the matter is referred to a third doctor, whose findings shall be binding on the parties.

Jurisprudence has elaborated on the requirements for the validity and procedure for disputing the assessment of the company-designated physician. For the company-designated physician’s assessment to be considered valid, it must be timely made and must state the fitness or degree of disability of the seafarer.

The seafarer has then the duty to signify his intent to challenge the company-designated physician’s assessment and, in turn, the employer must respond by setting into motion the process of choosing the third doctor.

The Court further explained in Sunit v. OSM Maritime Services, Inc.[33] that for the third doctor’s assessment to be valid and binding between the parties, the assessment must be definite and conclusive

The foregoing shows that it is required for both the company-designated physician and the third doctor to arrive at a definite and conclusive assessment of the fitness or disability rating of the seafarer for their assessment to be considered as valid.

The same standards to determine the validity of the assessment should be the same for the company-designated physician, seafarer’s physician, and the third doctor. Thus, in order for the seafarer to dispute the assessment of the company-designated physician, the assessment of the seafarer’s doctor should state the seafarer’s fitness to work or the disability rating.

Here, it is beyond dispute that the company-designated physician found that petitioner was fit to work. This was a valid assessment and the seafarer may dispute this by referring to his own doctor, which he did. Petitioner’s doctor, on the other hand, issued a certification that merely stated that he was “Unfit to work for a year yet. Needs physical therapy because of muscle atrophy.”[35] The Court finds that the assessment of the seafarer’s doctor is not definite because it failed to state the seafarer’s fitness to work or indicate his disability grade. The assessment is invalid.

The same is true for the assessment of petitioner’s own doctor. It merely stated that he was unfit to work for a year and that he needed to undergo physical therapy. The assessment is inconclusive and indefinite and therefore not considered a valid assessment.

Given the foregoing, although petitioner indeed moved for the referral to a third doctor during the conciliation and mediation stage,[38] and respondents failed to heed such request, such failure to heed the request cannot be taken against respondents because the assessment of petitioner’s own doctor was invalid. Given the lack of a valid and definite assessment from the seafarer’s doctor, the definite and valid assessment of the company-designated physician stands and is binding on the seafarer. The CA, NLRC, and LA were therefore all correct in relying on the assessment by the company-designated physician that petitioner was fit to work, and in ruling that petitioner is not entitled to any disability benefit.

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