Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

The Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that an employee who killed himself through smoking must be indemnified by the state.

Thus ruled the SC, which upheld a Court of Appeals (CA) order for the payment of the death benefit claims of a chain-smoking municipal official, who died in 2007 at 57 years old following cardiovascular disease complications.

In a resolution released online by the SC on February 19, the 2nd Division, through clerk of court Teresita Tuazon, affirmed the decision of the CA in favor of widow Ma. Clara R. Calleja, who filed a claim for death benefits with the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

Calleja claimed that the death of her husband, Lorenzo, was brought about by stress due to his heavy workload.

Lorenzo was employed with the municipality of Pamplona in Camarines Sur for 20 years, starting in 1987 as a municipal budget officer. He was a human resource management officer when he died.

In 2007, he was hospitalized for acute coronary syndrome, unstable angina with congestive heart failure, and pneumonia. He died a month later.

In its July 2007 decision, the GSIS denied the widow’s claim that the cause of Lorenzo’s death was work-related and that his smoking habit constituted negligence.

The wife then elevated the case to the Employees’ Compensation Commission, which in 2008 also dismissed her claim and said there was no reason to deviate from the GSIS’ denial of her claim.

The CA, in ruling for compensation, cited the deceased was handling two positions during his lifetime. At the time of his illness, his assistant took a three-month leave of absence.

The SC agreed, saying the deceased’s predicament “undoubtedly caused unusual and extraordinary physical and mental strain on him.”

“The chain causation that led to said illness and caused his immediate and untimely death is too obvious to be disregarded,” it ruled. “The peremptory presumption that Lorenzo’s smoking habit caused his illness and resulting death, without more, cannot suffice to bar respondent’s claim for disability benefits.”

The high court further said “if GSIS’ position will be sustained, smoking by itself will be a factor that will bar compensability, even for diseases that are listed as occupation in character.” SOVEREIGNPH

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