Monday, January 7, 2019, 1:50 p.m.
By Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho
Courts are not bound to accept, in its entirety, the company doctor’s findings despite the seafarer’s failure to initiate the referral to a third doctor.
The Supreme Court said that while failure to refer the conflicting findings between the company-designated physician and the seafarer’s physician of choice gives the former’s medical opinion more weight and probative value over the latter, still, it does not mean that the courts are bound by such doctor’s findings. (Henry Dionio vs Trans-Global Maritime Agency, Inc. G.R. No. 217362 November 18, 2018)
The court may set aside the same if it is shown that the findings of the company-designated doctor have no scientific basis or are not supported by medical records of the seafarer.
The rule that the company-designated doctor’s findings shall prevail in case of non-referral of the case to a third doctor is not a hard and-fast rule as labor tribunals and the courts are not bound by the medical findings of the company doctor.
Instead, the inherent merits of the respective medical findings shall be considered.
It is the avowed policy of the State to give maximum aid and full protection to labor. Thus, the Court has applied the Labor Code concept of disability to Filipino seafarers.
Case law has held that “the notion of disability is intimately related to the worker’s capacity to earn, and what is compensated is not his injury or illness but his inability to work resulting in the impairment of his earning capacity. Thus, disability has been construed less on its medical significance but more on the loss of earning capacity.”
It has been held that there is total disability when the employee is unable to earn wages in the same kind of work or work of similar nature that he or she was trained for or accustomed to perform, or any kind of work which a person of his or her mentality and attainments could do.
Meanwhile, there is a permanent disability when the worker is unable to perform his or her job for more than 120 or 240 days, as the case may be, regardless of whether or not he loses the use of any part of his or her body.
While much weight is given to the company doctor’s assessment, in view of the seafarer’s failure to initiate the referral to a third doctor, courts are not bound to accept, in its entirety, the company doctor’s findings, where the circumstances surrounding the fit-to-work assessment show otherwise.