3 Juin 2013
A bereaved family and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) have reached a settlement for compensation over a 64-year-old farmer's suicide shortly after the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, the family's lawyers say.
The settlement brokered by the Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center, an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) organ, represents the first out-of-court settlement over a suicide stemming from the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The deal is expected to affect civil cases in which bereaved families have filed lawsuits seeking redress for their loved ones' suicides.
TEPCO acknowledged the causal relationship between the suicide of the farmer in the Okambara district in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Sukagawa, and the nuclear crisis and reached the settlement with his family in May.
The lawyers said the farmer committed suicide after receiving a notice from the government on restricting cabbage shipments in the wake of the nuclear disaster. The lawyers started negotiations with TEPCO but the giant utility refused to admit a causal relationship, prompting the lawyers to take the case to the nuclear ADR entity in June 2012.
During oral proceedings, the farmer's family produced an expert opinion document and said the farmer expressed a feeling of despair in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster because of the ban on cabbage shipments. The family's arguments were believed to have led to the settlement. But a TEPCO spokesman declined comment.
An acquaintance who has known the farmer for about 20 years says the farmer had inherited the family farm and adhered to pesticide-free production of rice, cucumbers and other vegetables. He says he met the farmer about one week before he killed himself. The acquaintance said the farmer went about his life as usual but was probably shocked by the nuclear accident although he did not talk much about it.
The farmer's wife and their second eldest son have inherited the family farm.
Among suicides in the aftermath of the nuclear accident, a 58-year-old woman in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Kawamata committed suicide due to stress stemming from life in temporary housing and the losses of her job and house, leading her family to file a 91.2 million yen suit with the Fukushima District Court in May last year. A 54-year-old dairy farmer in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Soma took his own life after facing a ban on milk shipments and the forced slaughter of dairy cattle. His family filed suit with the Tokyo District Court in May this year seeking 126 million yen in compensation.
FUKUSHIMA--Compensation payments are expected to take a financial toll on Tokyo Electric Power Co. after redress cases strengthened for bereaved families and victims of stress caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident.
For the first time, a government-affiliated dispute resolution center decided to demand TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, pay compensation to residents for their anxieties over radiation exposure.
Also in a first, TEPCO has agreed to pay compensation to family members of a farmer who killed himself after the nuclear accident robbed him of his livelihood.
Lawyers for 180 residents of the Nagadoro district of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, located some 30 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, said June 2 that the science ministry’s center for alternative dispute resolution had sided with their arguments.
The residents were told to evacuate more than one month after the nuclear disaster began on March 11, 2011, following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
They have demanded compensation for stress caused by their exposure to radiation during that period.
“It is understandable for the residents to feel anxiety and fear about their exposure to radiation,” a lawyer quoted a center official as saying.
The lawyers said the center will tell TEPCO to pay 500,000 ($4,977) per person, and 1 million yen each to pregnant women and children up to the age of 18.
The central government initially did not issue evacuation warnings for residents in a large part of Iitate, including the Nagadoro district, because it is located outside a 30-kilometer radius of the nuclear power plant.
Radiation levels in those areas were later found to be very high, and the residents who did not leave immediately received relatively high radiation doses.
The center also mediated between TEPCO and the family members of the farmer who committed suicide in Sukagawa in the prefecture.
TEPCO has decided to pay more than 10 million yen in compensation to the family, including consolation money and lost earnings, sources close to the family members said.
The farmer, then 64, had operated an organic vegetable farm for more than 30 years.
The central government imposed restrictions on certain kinds of vegetables grown in Fukushima Prefecture on March 23, 2011, immediately after the nuclear disaster started. At that time, the farmer had just entered the cabbage-picking season.
The following morning, the man hanged himself at the farm
His bereaved family in June last year asked the center to mediate a settlement with TEPCO, and the institution suggested an amount.
Early last month, TEPCO said it will accept the center’s offer, but it refused to apologize to the family members as demanded.
Other families have also blamed TEPCO for the suicides of family members.
And the Namie municipal government, acting on behalf of 11,602 residents, has asked the center to more than triple monthly benefits for psychological suffering caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident.
The application asked that TEPCO’s monthly compensation for psychological duress be increased to 350,000 yen from current 100,000 yen.