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TEPCO ordered to pay couple who ‘voluntarily’ fled Fukushima after nuclear disaster

feb 19, 2016

KYOTO–The Kyoto District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay 30.46 million yen ($267,000) to a couple for mental illnesses the husband suffered following their “voluntary evacuation” from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The district court’s unprecedented ruling on Feb. 18 said the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant contributed to the insomnia and depression the husband developed after his family fled Fukushima Prefecture in 2011.
Although the plaintiffs did not live in a government-designated evacuation zone around the plant, the court said evacuating voluntarily is “appropriate when the hazard from the accident and conflicting information remained.”
The ruling was the first to award damages to voluntary evacuees, according to a private group of lawyers involved in lawsuits against TEPCO and the central government over the nuclear disaster.
The man, who is in his 40s, his wife and three children were seeking a total of 180 million yen against TEPCO.
According to the ruling, the husband and wife had managed a company that operated restaurants in Fukushima Prefecture. The family fled their home a few days after the nuclear accident started in March 2011 and moved to Kyoto in may that year.
The court acknowledged the man suffered severe mental stress because he had to leave his hometown and quit his position as representative of the company.
TEPCO had paid a total of 2.92 million yen to the family based on the central government’s compensation standards for residents who evacuated on their own.
The utility argued that its payments were appropriate because they were based on guidelines set by a central government panel addressing disputes over compensation for nuclear accidents. The guidelines dictate uniform and fixed payments for residents who left areas outside designated evacuation zones.
However, the district court said these guidelines “simply show a list of damages that can be broken down and the scope of damages.”
The court concluded that compensation amounts should instead reflect the personal circumstances of evacuees in nuclear accident-related cases.
It ordered TEPCO to compensate the couple for the period through August 2012, when radiation levels dropped to a certain level and information on the nuclear accident became more stable and accurate.
Specifically, the court said the husband and wife are entitled to part of the monthly remuneration of 400,000 yen to 760,000 yen they had received each for having to suspend their business following the nuclear accident.
But the court dismissed the damage claims of the couple’s three children, saying their compensation was already covered by TEPCO’s payments.
About 10,000 evacuees are involved in 21 damages suits filed in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo, Osaka and elsewhere.
An estimated 18,000 people from Fukushima Prefecture are still living in voluntary evacuation, according to the prefectural government.

Tepco to compensate couple for damages from voluntary Fukushima evacuation
The Kyoto District Court has ordered the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to pay about ¥30 million to a couple for economic and health damage caused by their decision to voluntarily flee the radiation in Fukushima Prefecture after the disaster.
The husband lost his job and developed a mental illness during the ordeal.
This is believed to be the first time a court has found Tokyo Electric Power Co. liable for damages stemming from a voluntary evacuation after the plant’s triple core meltdown, which was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.
The ruling is expected to affect similar lawsuits filed by voluntary evacuees across the country.
According to the Fukushima Prefectural Government, as of the end of October, some 18,000 people in 7,000 households who lived outside the designated evacuation zone remain evacuated outside Fukushima.
The sum awarded is also far more than the ¥11 million proposed by a government-established center that mediates out-of-court settlements for nuclear accident compensation cases. The settlement program is called ADR.
The center is for people who are not covered by Tepco’s direct compensation scheme. The ADR program is also aimed at reaching conclusions more quickly than through Tepco. Some 18,000 applications for settlement have been made, out of which 13,000 cases have been resolved. But the amount awarded through ADR tends to be small, experts say.
Hideaki Omori, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the ruling “set an example that there is no need to give up when evacuees do not feel satisfied with the sum” presented by the dispute resolution center.
The couple — who had moved twice before settling down in the city of Kyoto in May 2011 — had sought ¥180 million in damages.
The plaintiffs, who are in their 40s, expressed relief after the ruling.
“We are relieved that we will be financially alright for a while, but we still can’t imagine our future life,” they said in a statement released through their lawyers.
According to the written complaint, the husband became unable to work because he developed pleurisy (a respiratory disease) and depression after the evacuation. Their children also experienced emotional distress from being harshly treated by classmates because they came from Fukushima Prefecture.
The court also showed for the first time that such compensation should be extended for evacuation through the end of August 2012, rejecting claims for damages after that.
The court cited the gradual fall in radiation levels in the city of Koriyama, where the couple originally lived before the disaster, concluding that from September 2012 on, the levels were not serious enough to damage health.
After three reactors experienced meltdowns during the disaster, residents within 20 km of the nuclear plant and some areas beyond were ordered to evacuate. Many others also fled at their own discretion and remain in temporary housing.


February 19, 2016 - Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , ,

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