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ACQ 2016-1

Real Case 1: Personal Accident Insurance

Real Life Situation: A Chinese flag vessel was in port in Hong Kong. A mainland Chinese 3rd officer accidentally slipped and fell into the cargo and sustained a serious injury to his head. He was unconscious and was taken to the local Government hospital for emergency surgery immediately. The surgery was successful. The hospital demanded payment of high fees and charges for their services in view they said the patient was not a Hong Kong citizen and was not entitled to the subsidised hospital charges. The high charges were paid by the shipowner who had no choice.

The Problem: The claim was the full amount of the hospital charges including excess charges for foreign patients. When it came to submitting the claim for reimbursement to the P&I Club, the P&I Club pointed out that the crew employment contract signed and agreed by the 3rd officer was subject to compensation in accordance with the Hong Kong employment law ordinance. In other words the legal liability of the shipowner would be limited to the ‘subsidised’ and lower charges of the hospital, and the P&I club would not reimburse the excess charges.

Action Taken: We assisted the Shipowner to present the claim and submission to the P&I Club along the following lines. As the 3rd officer was not a Hong Kong citizen, the increased medical charges were ”unavoidably” incurred. That the crew contract stated that compensation was subject to the Hong Kong employment ordinance presupposes that the crew was entitled to the subsidised medical charges of the hospital, which appeared not to be the case, and the intention of the crew contract was not to discriminate the crew and his nationality. We argued that the expenses and emergency surgery was unavoidably incurred and this saved the life of the crew. Accordingly these medical charges even though they were higher for a foreigner can be considered in the nature of a sue and labour charge, and on this basis the full amount of the expenses should be claimable from the P&I Club, otherwise the compensation for a death claim which would have been much higher would have arisen. After our explanation and submission, the P&I Club agreed to settle the claim in full to the shipowner.