Case Digest: Crew and Ship Management & Salena v. Soria

G.R. No. 175491 : December 10, 2012




Zosimo Soria (Zosimo) entered into a one-year contract of employment with Salena Inc., (Salena) through its local manning agent, Crew and Ship Management International Inc. (Crew). Zosimo was employed as an assistant cook on board M.V. Apollo. During his routine duty inside M.V. Apollo’s engine room, he suffered burns on his left knee when it accidentally brushed the hot engine. The vessel’s medical officer immediately attended and treated Zosimo’s injury with the appropriate medication.

Nine (9) days after repatriation to the Philippines, Zosimo reported to Salena’s office for payment of his contractual receivables. He was referred to Fatima Medical Clinic, Crew’s and Salena’s designated hospital. FMC’s Medical Report disclosed that Zosimo’s “wound is dry not infected with viable skin graft.” After several days, however, Zosimo died from “Pneumonia with Congestion of all visceral organs.”

Thus, Jina Soria (Soria), the wife of the late Zosimo, filed a complaint for death compensation benefits against Salena and Crew before the Labor Arbiter. The LA dismissed the complaint for lack of merit. On appeal, the NLRC affirmed the decision of the LA. Salena and Crew filed a motion for reconsideration which was granted by NLRC. Aggrieved, Soria appealed to the Court of Appeals which granted her petition. Hence, Salena and Crew filed this instant petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Court of Appeals erred in awarding death benefits to Soria?

HELD: The petition is meritorious.

LABOR LAW: employment of seafarers

The employment of seafarers, including claims for death benefits, is governed by the contracts they sign every time they are hired or rehired, as long as the stipulations therein are not contrary to law, morals, public order, or public policy, they have the force of law between the parties.

From the records, it appears that Zosimo failed to comply with the mandatory 72-hour post-employment medical examination deadline as provided for in Section C(4)(c) of the 1989 POEA Standard Employment Contract. It was only on July 19, 1996, or nine days upon his arrival to the Philippines, that Zosimo sought medical attention from FMC, Crew’s and Salena’s designated physician. The mandate of the aforementioned provision is to make the post- employment examination within three (3) working days from the seafarer’s arrival/repatriation to the Philippines compulsory, except when the seafarer is physically incapacitated to do so, before a claim for disability or death benefits can validly prosper.

REMEDIAL LAW: substantial evidence

The Court is of the considered view that Soria likewise failed to adduce substantial evidence showing that the pneumonia, which her husband contracted, was caused by tetanus as a result of the burn injury. The rule is that, in labor cases, substantial evidence or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as sufficient to support a conclusion is required. The oft-repeated rule is that whoever claims entitlement to the benefits provided by law should establish his or her right thereto by substantial evidence. Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. Any decision based on unsubstantiated allegations cannot stand as it will offend due process.

Petition is GRANTED. Court of Appeals REVERSED AND SET ASIDE.