22 Juillet 2016
July 21, 2016
A court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pay compensation to a golf course operator for lost revenue caused by “false rumors” from the disaster at the utility’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Although TEPCO argued that the golf course in northern Tochigi Prefecture, 115 kilometers from the nuclear plant, was safe from radiation exposure, the Tokyo District Court on July 20 said TEPCO must still cover 19.6 million yen ($183,000) of the golf course operator’s losses in 2011.
“This is an epoch-making judgment that appropriately recognizes damages caused by false rumors,” said Kiyohisa Arai, the lawyer who represented the golf course operator.
The plaintiffs, who demanded 86.4 million yen in compensation, argued that the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant in March 2011 led to a prolonged decline in customers.
According to the ruling, sales at the golf course in March 2011 plummeted 62 percent compared with the figure for March 2010, and monthly revenues continued to decline year-on-year.
TEPCO argued that “the golf course was located far away from the power plant, and there were no concerns of being exposed to radiation there.”
Tochigi Prefecture lies south of Fukushima Prefecture, where the stricken nuclear plant is located.
However, the court ruled that rumors were enough to keep customers away from the golf course in the six months following the nuclear accident.
“A significant number of users avoided visiting the facility because sufficient scientific knowledge on the amount of radiation and exposure from the accident was not available at the time,” the ruling said.
The court held TEPCO responsible for covering 30 percent to 50 percent of the company’s monthly losses from March to August 2011.
“Road damages from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the social atmosphere of the time that led people to refrain from taking part in leisure activities also had an effect on visitor turnout,” the court ruled.
A Japanese court has ordered Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, to compensate a golf course operator for damages caused by rumors after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011.
This is the first ruling in Japan that recognizes rumor-caused damages related to a nuclear accident.
The golf course operator's suit claimed that revenues from its course in Tochigi Prefecture, north of Tokyo, dropped due to harmful rumors related to the nuclear accident.
TEPCO argued that there was no danger from radiation because the golf course is more than 100 kilometers from the nuclear plant.
In the ruling on Wednesday, Tokyo District Court presiding judge Tetsuro Nakayoshi said the public did not have sufficient knowledge about radiation around the time of the accident.
He noted that it was not unreasonable for ordinary people to worry about health risks.
The court determined that harmful rumors were responsible for 30 to 50 percent of the decline in revenue for more than 5 months following the accident.
The court ordered the utility to pay about 180,000 dollars in compensation.
TEPCO says the company will deal with the matter sincerely after studying the ruling.