Company-designated physician appropriate declaration or certification

In the case of NSMSI v. Llanos (G.R. No. 227489. December 05, 2016), petitioners' arguments are that: (1) respondent is not entitled to full disability benefits in view of the January 17, 2014 medical report of the company-designated doctor certifying that respondent only has a "grade 10 disability"; and (2) at any rate, the respondent should not be awarded attorney's fees in view of the absence of showing of bad faith on their part. None of the arguments has any merit.

The Supreme Court ruled as follows:

First. Notwithstanding the company-designated doctor's medical report classifying the respondent's injury as merely a "grade 10 disability" the fact remains that the same doctor still failed to make any final declaration or certification as to the fitness or unfitness of the respondent to engage in sea duty even after the lapse of 240 days from the time the latter arrived in the country for diagnosis and treatment.

Article 192 (c) (1) of the Labor Code, in relation to Section 20 (3) of the POEA-SEC as well as Section 2, Rule X of the Rules and Regulations implementing Book IV of the Labor Code, considers as total and permanent any temporary disability that lasts for more than: (a) 120 days from the time the seafarer arrives in the country for diagnosis and treatment; or (b) 240 days from such arrival, if there is indication that the seafarer requires further medical attention beyond the first 120 days.Hence, in order to forestall an otherwise temporary disability from being deemed a total and permanent disability under the law, it is incumbent upon the company-designated physician to issue the appropriate declaration or certification—within the above 120-day or 240-day period as the case may be—that the concerned seafarer is already fit to resume sea duties. Sans such declaration or certification, the disabled seafarer may claim total and permanent disability benefits. This is exactly what happened in this case.

Second. The existence of bad faith on the part of petitioners is not required to justify the award of attorney's fees in favor of respondent. Even without petitioners' bad faith, respondent may still recover attorney's fees since he was—as uniformly found by the LA, NLRC and the CA—"forced to litigate to protect his valid, claim" That is enough reason in labor cases to award attorney's fees in favor of a successful party-employee.


[1] Article 192(c)(l) of the Labor Code reads: xxx (c) The following disabilities shall be deemed total and permanent: xxx (1) Temporary total disability lasting continuously for more than one hundred twenty days, except as otherwise provided in the Rules;
[2] Section 20(3) of the POEA Standard Employment Contract states:
Upon sign-oOffrom the vessel for medical treatment, the seafarer is entitled to sickness allowance equivalent to his basic wage until he is declared fit to work or the degree of permanent disability has been assessed by the company-designated physician but in no case shall this period exceed one hundred twenty (120) days.
[3] Section 2, Rule X of the Rules and Regulations implementing Book IV of the Labor Code reads: 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 anytime 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 determined by the System.
[4] Vergara v. Hammonia Maritime Services, Inc., G.R. No. 172933, October 6 2008
[5] C.F. Sharp Crew Management, Inc. v. Taok, G.R. No. 193679, July 18 2012
[6] Exodus International Construction Corporation v. Biscocho, G.R. No. 166109, February 23, 2011

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