Case Digest: Magsaysay Maritime v. NLRC

G.R. No. 191903 : June 19, 2013




The petitioner manning agency, Magsaysay Maritime Corporation, in behalf of its foreign principal, co-petitioner Westfal-Larsen and Co., A/S, hired respondent Wilson Capoy (Capoy) as Fitter on board the vessel M/S Star Geiranger for nine months.

In July 2005, while at work, Capoy allegedly fell down from a ladder from about 2 meters. He claimed he immediately felt numbness in his fingertips. Despite which, he continued working. On August 2005, while climbing a flight of stairs, he again fell from a height of one meter, he claimed he could not hold tightly onto the railings due to the numbness in his fingers. Several doctors in Canada examined him until he was medically repatriated.

He underwent surgery and after being evaluated by the Shipss specialists he was cleared for discharge. He remained under the care of the specialist for therapy sessions, which continued until March 17, 2006. He was to return on April 6, 2006 for re-evaluation.

On January 19, 2006 or while still undergoing treatment by the company doctors, Capoy filed a complaint for disability benefits. He argued that after the lapse of 120 days without being declared fit to work, he was entitled to permanent total disability benefits in accordance with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) his union had with his employer. He presented 2 documents which purportedly was a part of the collective agreements wherein it was stated that the compensation for a 100% degree of disability was US$75,000 while the other was a document supposedly of the CBA for 2004-2005.

The petitioners argued that Capoy was not entitled to permanent disability benefits as his claim was premature since no disability assessment has yet been made by the company designated physician. They further argued that the injury, which caused Capoys disability, was self-inflicted due to his failure to follow the recommended medical treatment. They also disputed Capoys claim that he suffered a fall twice on board the vessel, as it was not recorded on the logbook.

Before the complaint could be resolved, Capoy had himself examined by a physician of his choice, Dr. Sabado who declared him unfit to any kind of work permanently.

The Labor Arbiter (LA) awarded Capoy permanent total disability benefits of $70,000. The LA held Capoy suffered from permament total disability as the medical records showed that he was unable to perform work or earn a living in the same kind of work for more than 120 days from his repatriation. The NLRC affirmed the LAs decision.

The Court of Appeals denied the petition for lack of merit and upheld the NLRC rulings. The CA pointed out that the petitioners failed to disprove the authenticity of the CBA. The CA brushed aside the petitioners contention that Capoy failed to show proof that his injury was work-connected. It stressed that according to jurisprudence, probability and not the ultimate degree of certainty is the test of proof in compensation proceedings. Capoys repatriation due to medical reasons raises no other logical conclusion but that, he was injured while on board the vessel.

The CA gave no credit to the petitioners submission that Capoy is not entitled to disability benefits because he willfully and deliberately discontinued his medical treatment under the supervision of the company designated physician. In any event, it emphasized that Capoy remained under Dr. Salvadors care for more than 120 days. It concluded that there is merit in Capoys claim for permanent total disability benefits.

ISSUE: Whether or not 120 days of disability is enough to declare Capoys disability permanent.

HELD: The Court of Appeals is set aside.

Article 192(3) of the Labor Code which deals with the period of disability states that the following disabilities shall be deemed total and permanent:

1. Temporary total disability lasting continuously for more than one hundred twenty days, except as otherwise provided for in the Rules.

The ruled adverted to is Section 2, Rule X of the Rules and Regulations

implementing Book IV of the Labor Code which provides:

Sec. 2. Period of entitlement. (a) The income benefit shall be paid beginning on the first day of such disability. If caused by an injury or

sickness it shall not be paid longer than 120 consecutive days except

where such injury or sickness still requires medical attendance beyond 120 days but not to exceed 240 days from onset of disability in which case benefit for temporary total disability shall be paid. However, the

System may declare the total and permanent status at any time after 120 days of continuous temporary total disability as may be warranted by the degree of actual loss or impairment of physical or mental functions as detemined by the System.

The LA, the NLRC and the CA, therefore, grossly misappreciated the facts and the applicable law when they ruled that because Capoy was unable to perform his work as a fitter for more than 120 days, he became entitled to permanent total disability benefits.

Considering that Capoy was still under treatment by the company doctors even after the lapse of 120 days but within the 240-day extended period allowed by the rules, he was under temporary total disability and entitled to temporary total disability benefits under the same rules

In light of these considerations, Capoys claim for permanent total disabilty benefits must necessarily fail. However, since it is undisputed that Capoy still needed medical treatment beyond the initial 120 days from his repatriation - it lasted for 197 days as found by the CA - he is entitled, under the rules,42 to the income benefit for temporary total disability during the extended period or for one hundred ninety-seven ( 197) days. This benefit must be paid to him.