Case Digest: Southeastern Shipping v. Navarra, Jr.

G.R. No. 167678 : June 22, 2010




Petitioner Southeastern Shipping, on behalf of its foreign principal, petitioner Southeastern Shipping Group, Ltd., hired Federico to work on board the vessel "George McLeod." Federico signed 10 successive separate employment contracts of varying durations covering the period from October 5, 1995 to March 30, 1998. His latest contract was approved by the POEA on January 21, 1998 for 56 days extendible for another 56 days. On March 6, 1998, Federico, while on board the vessel, complained of having a sore throat and on and off fever with chills. He also developed a soft mass on the left side of his neck. On March 30, 1998, Federico arrived back in the Philippines and the specimen excised from his neck lymph node was found negative for malignancy. However, on June 4, 1998, he was diagnosed at the PGH to be suffering from Hodgkin's Disease. On September 6, 1999, Federico filed a complaint against petitioners with the arbitration branch of the NLRC claiming entitlement to disability benefits, loss of earning capacity, moral and exemplary damages, and attorney's fees. During the pendency of the case, on April 29, 2000, Federico died. His widow, Evelyn, substituted him as party complainant on her own behalf and in behalf of their three children. The claim for disability benefits was then converted into a claim for death benefits. The LA dismissed the complaint which was reversed by NLRC and CA hence the said petition for review.

ISSUE: Whether or not petitioners are liable for the death of the respondent as such death was during the term of his employment contract.

HELD: Petitioners are not liable to pay to respondents death compensation benefits

LABOR LAW: death compensation benefits

Petitioners are not liable to pay to respondents death compensation benefits for lack of showing that Federicos disease was brought about by his stint on board petitioners vessels and also considering that his death occurred after the effectivity of his contract. The law in protecting the rights of the employees, authorizes neither oppression nor self-destruction of the employer there may be cases where the circumstances warrant favoring labor over the interests of management but never should the scale be so tilted as to result in an injustice to the employer. The death of a seaman during the term of employment makes the employer liable to his heirs for death compensation benefits, but if the seaman dies after the termination of his contract of employment, his beneficiaries are not entitled to the death benefits. Federico did not die while he was under the employ of petitioners. His contract of employment ceased when he arrived in the Philippines on March 30, 1998, whereas he died on April 29, 2000. Thus, his beneficiaries are not entitled to the death benefits under the Standard Employment Contract for Seafarers.

Petition is PARTLY GRANTED. CA's decision holding that the claim for death benefits has not yet prescribed is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION that petitioners are not liable to pay to respondents death compensation benefits