Deliberate and willful act on seafarer’s own life directly attributable to him resulting in his death is not compensable.

Marlow Navigation Philippines, Inc./Marlow Navigation Co., Ltd. and/or Ms. Eileen Morales Vs. Heirs of Ricardo S. Ganal, et al.
G.R. No. 220168, June 7, 2017


Marlow Navigation employed Ricardo Ganal (Ganal) as an oiler aboard the vessel MV Stadt Hamburg in accordance with the provisions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)-Standard Employment Contract, which was executed by and between the parties.

One evening, a party was organized for the crewmen of MV Stadt Hamburg while the ship was anchored at Chittagong, Bangladesh. After finishing his shift at 12 midnight, Ganal joined the party.

Around 3 o’clock in the morning, the ship captain noticed that Ganal was already drunk so he directed him to return to his cabin and take a rest. Ganal ignored the ship captain’s order.

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Thus, a ship officer, a security watchman and a member of the crew were summoned to escort Ganal to his cabin. The crewmembers attempted to accompany him back to his cabin but he refused. They then tried to restrain him but he resisted and, when he found the chance to escape, he ran towards the ship’s railings and, without hesitation, jumped overboard and straight into the sea.

The crewmembers immediately threw life rings into the water towards the direction where he jumped and the ship officer sounded a general alarm and several alarms thereafter. Contact was also made with the coast guard and the crew members searched for Ganal, to no avail. Ganal was later found dead and floating in the water. The subsequent medico-legal report issued by the Philippine National Police showed that the cause of his death was asphyxia by drowning.

Subsequently, Ganal’s wife, Gemma Boragay (Boragay), for herself and in behalf of their minor children, filed a claim for death benefits with Marlow Navigation et al., but the latter denied the claim. Thus, Boragay, filed with the NLRC a complaint for recovery of death and other benefits, unpaid salaries for the remaining period of Ganal’s contract, as well as moral and exemplary damages.

LA Ruling:

The LA rendered a Decision dismissing the complaint for lack of merit. The LA held that Heirs of Ganal’s allegations are self-serving and hearsay. They failed to present evidence to substantiate their allegations.

On the other hand, Marlow Navigation et al. were able to present documentary evidence, consisting of affidavits of Ganal’s fellow crew members who have direct and actual knowledge of what occurred on board the MV Stadt Hamburg and who attested to the fact that Ganal willfully jumped overboard.

Nonetheless, the LA ordered herein Marlow Navigation et al. to pay Heirs of Ganal the amount ofUS$5,000.00 as financial assistance. Aggrieved by the Decision of the LA, Heirs of Ganal filed an appeal with the NLRC.

NLRC Ruling:

The NLRC issued a Resolution denying Heirs of Ganal’s appeal and affirming the Decision of the LA. The NLRC ruled that Marlow Navigation et al. have duly proven that Ganal’s death is not compensable as it was the result of the deliberate and willful act of Ganal and, thus, is directly attributable to him.

Heirs of Ganal filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but the NLRC denied it. Heirs of Ganal then filed a petition for certiorari with the CA.

CA Ruling:

The CA rendered its assailed Decision which reversed the Resolutions of the NLRC.

The CA held that Ganal jumped into the sea while he was overcome by alcohol and completely intoxicated and deprived of his consciousness and mental faculties to comprehend the consequence of his own actions and keep in mind his own personal safety.

Marlow Navigation et al. filed a Motion for Reconsideration, but the CA denied it. Hence, the petition for review on certiorari.


Whether or not a seafarer who was heavily intoxicated during a ship sponsored party who later on jumped off the ship and drowned is entitled to compensation

SC Ruling:

The SC found merit in the petition.

Under the provisions of the Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Overseas Employment of Filipino Seafarers On-Board Ocean-Going Ships, as amended, the death of a seafarer by reason of any work-related injury or illness during the term of his employment is compensable.

On the other hand, Section 20(D) of the same Standard Terms and Conditions states that no compensation and benefits shall be payable in respect of any injury, incapacity, disability or death of the seafarer resulting from his willful or criminal act or intentional breach of his duties, provided however, that the employer can prove that such injury, incapacity, disability or death is directly attributable to the seafarer.

Also, under Article 172 of the Labor Code, which may also be made applicable to the present case, the compensation for workers covered by the Employees Compensation and State Insurance Fund are subject to the limitations on liability. The State Insurance Fund shall be liable for the compensation to the employee or his dependents except when the disability or death was occasioned by the employee’s intoxication, willful intent to injure or kill himself or another, notorious negligence, or otherwise provided under the law.

As defined under the above-cited Standard Terms and Conditions, work-related injury, or in this case, death, is any injury arising out of and in the course of employment. The words “arising out of’ refer to the origin or cause of the accident and are descriptive of its character, while the words “in the course of’ refer to the time, place, and circumstances under which the accident takes place.

By the use of these words, it was not the intention of the legislature to make the employer an insurer against all accidental injuries which might happen to an employee while in the course of the employment, but only for such injuries arising from or growing out of the risks peculiar to the nature of work in the scope of the workmen’s employment or incidental to such employment, and accidents in which it is possible to trace the injury to some risk or hazard to which the employee is exposed in a special degree by reason of such employment. Risks to which all persons similarly situated are equally exposed and not traceable in some special degree to the particular employment are excluded.

In the present case, it may be conceded that the death of Ganal took place in the course of his employment, in that it happened at the time and at the place where he was working. However, the accident which produced this tragic result did not arise out of such employment. The occasion where Ganal took alcoholic beverages was a grill party organized by the ship officers of MV Stadt Hamburg. It was a social event and Ganal attended not because he was performing his duty as a seaman, but was doing an act for his own personal benefit.

Even if the Court were to adopt a liberal view and consider the grill party as incidental to Ganal’s work as a seaman, his death during such occasion may not be considered as having arisen out of his employment as it was the direct consequence of his decision to jump into the water without coercion nor compulsion from any of the ship officers or crew members. The hazardous nature of this act was not due specially to the nature of his employment. It was a risk to which any person on board the MV Stadt Hamburg, such as a passenger thereof or an ordinary visitor, would have been exposed had he, likewise, jumped into the sea, as Ganal had.

Even if it could be shown that a person drank intoxicating liquor, it is incumbent upon the person invoking drunkenness as a defense to show that said person was extremely drunk, as a person may take as much as several bottles of beer or several glasses of hard liquor and still remain sober and unaffected by the alcoholic drink. It must be shown that the intoxication was the proximate cause of death or injury and the burden lies on him who raises drunkenness as a defense. The SC agreed with the LA and the NLRC that Heirs of Ganal failed in this respect.

Indeed, Ganal may have had no intention to end his own life. He may be just being playful. Nonetheless, he acted with notorious negligence. Notorious negligence has been defined as something more than mere or simple negligence or contributory negligence; it signifies a deliberate act of the employee to disregard his own personal safety.

In any case, regardless of Ganal’s motives, Marlow Navigation et al. were able to prove that his act of jumping was willful on his part. Thus, Marlow Navigation et al. should not be held responsible for the logical consequence of Ganal’s act of jumping overboard.

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