Doctrine: The law does not require that the illness should be incurable. What is important is that he was unable to perform his customary work for more than 120 days which constitutes permanent total disability. An award of a total and permanent disability benefit would be germane to the purpose of the benefit, which is to help the employee in making ends meet at the time when he is unable to work.
G.R. No. 211454 | February 11, 2015
MAUNLAD TRANS., INC./ CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES, INC., and MR. AMADO L. CASTRO, JR., petitioners,
RODOLFO M. CAMORAL, respondent.
Ponente: Reyes, J.
Camoral was continuously deployed overseas by Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc., a foreign shipping company, through its local agent, Maunlad Trans., Inc. Sometime in April 2009, they took him on board M/S Carnival Sensation as ice carver for a period of eight months, where the company doctors have declared him “Fit for Sea Duty”.
Camoral’s job as ice carver required lifting and carrying heavy blocks of ice and using heavy equipment and tools, working for hours inside the freezer in sub-zero temperature. One day, in September 2009, while at work, he suddenly felt excruciating pain in his neck. It became so intense that he dropped to the floor. Such pain relievers could not relieve the pain, and the ship’s doctor then advised the Chief Chef that Camoral was unfit for further duty on board.
On advice of the company doctor, an imaging scan was performed on Camoral’s cervical spine. In his medical report, it was found that Camoral was with “Cervical Disc Herniation and Radiculopathy” and declared him “unfit for duty”. He underwent rigorous physical therapy, but after more than five months, his condition barely improved, and the pain in his neck, chest and shoulder persisted. He then consulted Dr. Catapang, a renowned Orthopaedic and Traumatology Surgeon. The clinical and physical examination of Camoral issued a report stating that he has lost his pre-injury capacity and is unfit to work back at his previous occupation as a seafarer.
Camoral failed to get further financial assistance from Maunlad Trans., Inc. for his subsequent treatment and medications, as well as total disability benefits. He was instead offered $10,075.00 corresponding to Grade “10” disability the company gave him. With no income for more than 120 days and having been declared unfit to return to his previous job due to loss of his pre-injury capacity, he sued Maunlad Trans., Inc. before the LA for total disability benefits of US$60,000.00, citing Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers on board Ocean-going Vessels (POEA SEC).
The Maunlad Trans., Inc. argued that Camoral was not entitled to total and permanent disability benefits since he was not assessed by the company doctors with a Grade “1” disability. Furthermore, it insisted that regardless of whether the disability is total or partial, any compensation should be based on the grading provided in the POEA SEC, which in this case is Grade “10” disability as assessed by the company doctors.
The Supreme Court ruled that the inability to work for more than 240 days equivalent to permanent and total disability benefits. In this case, the respondent was assessed by the company-designated doctors with a grade “10” disability on the 150th day of his treatment. However, the company-designated physicians likewise stated that with the disability, the seafarer will not be able to return to his previous work. Camoral likewise presented a medical opinion from his own doctor declaring him unfit to return to sea duty.
The Court did not honor the grade “10” disability assessment issued by the company-designated physician as basis for disability benefits payable and instead held that Camoral is entitled to full disability benefits as he is now permanently and totally disabled. They noted that the company doctor, as well as Camoral’s personal doctor was of the same opinion that fitness to go back to work is no longer attainable. Thus, the Court held that while the seafarer is partially injured or disabled, he must not be precluded from earning by doing the same work he had before his injury or disability or that he is accustomed or trained to do. Otherwise, if his illness or injury prevents him from engaging in gainful employment for more than 120 days or 240 days, as the case may be, then he shall be deemed totally and permanently disabled. It is of no consequence that he recovered, for what is important is that he was unable to perform his customary work for more than 120/240 days, and this constitutes permanent total disability.
Digested by Samera Pandapatan, and Khalid Rinamuntao, 2 – JD, S.Y. 2020-2021, Mindanao State University – College of Law Iligan Extension