More than 120 people from Kumamoto and Kagoshima living in Kansai and other areas that have not been recognized as having Minamata disease and were not eligible for remedy will be sentenced to a court ruling in a court case seeking compensation from the national government, Kumamoto Prefecture, and the company responsible for the disease, will be handed down by the Osaka District Court on May 27.
In the trial, the validity of the criteria of the Special Measures Law, which delimits the targets of relief according to the "region" and "age" of the person, was disputed, and this is the first judgment in a class action lawsuit filed in four locations nationwide.
The lawsuit is filed by 30 people in their 40s to 50s who lived in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures, where Minamata disease occurred in the 80s and 128s, and then moved to Osaka and Hyogo.
Despite having symptoms such as numbness of the hands and feet peculiar to Minamata disease, the "region" where I lived under the Special Measures Law to help people who are not certified as Minamata disease enforced in 21 (Heisei 2009) and "age" were excluded from relief, so 9 years ago, the national government and Kumamoto Prefecture, In addition, we filed a lawsuit against Chisso, the company responsible for the damage, seeking compensation of 1.450 million yen per person.
The verdict of this trial will be handed down at 27 p.m. on the 3th at the Osaka District Court.
The relief under the Special Measures Law is
for people who have lived in the "target area" around Minamata Bay designated by Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures for more than one year, and who were born by the end of November of Showa 1,
the year after Chisso stopped draining organic mercury.
In the court, the validity of the criteria for such remedies is disputed, and the government and others have requested that the lawsuit be dismissed on the grounds that "it cannot be said that mercury sufficient to cause Minamata disease was ingested outside the target area."
Similar class-action lawsuits have been filed in Kumamoto, Niigata, and Tokyo, and this is the first ruling.
Plaintiff Yoshie Maeda: "Rescue every single person"
The plaintiff, Yoshie Maeda, 74, who lives in Shimamotocho, Osaka, has been suffering from sensory disorders such as numbness and tremors in the hands and feet peculiar to Minamata disease since he was a child.
Mr. Maeda was born in Akune City, Kagoshima Prefecture, and spent his time eating fish caught in Minamata City, Kumamoto Prefecture.
Since he was in elementary school, he had felt numbness and tremors in his hands, could not write well, felt his legs were dulled, and tripped and fell in places where there were no steps.
After graduating from junior high school and getting a job at a company in Osaka, I suspected that the numbness and other symptoms were some kind of illness, so I went to the hospital for an examination.
Mr. Maeda says, "I was told that I could not name the disease even if I visited multiple hospitals, and Minamata disease never came to mind."
The diagnosis I received at this time was autonomic nervous disorder.
Even after that, the symptoms did not go away, and he felt lonely and inferior because he was the only one who was struggling.
Therefore, in order to hide my symptoms, I always put force into my body to stop shaking and avoid writing.
In addition, when I was in my 30s, I was bedridden almost every day and could no longer cook meals, which I feel was a struggle for my husband and children.
Mr. Maeda said, "I wanted to do something like a person, such as tying a ribbon to my daughter's hair.
Later, Maeda was recommended by his brother to undergo a checkup for Minamata disease, and it was not until nine years ago that he was finally diagnosed with Minamata disease.
However, since it was not diagnosed by a designated hospital, it was not recognized as Minamata disease by national standards, and applications for the Special Measures Law, which is a national relief measure, were no longer accepted.
In addition, even if they had applied, they would not have been able to receive compensation because they lived in an area that was not subject to the Special Measures Law.
How hard has he lived for many years without knowing the name of his illness and not being relied upon?
In the trial, together with patients in similar circumstances, they are once again demanding an apology and compensation from the government.
Mr. Maeda said, "Even if you look fine, you have lived with a lot of suffering for a long time. I hope that the government and others will understand our suffering and help every single one of us."
The history of the lawsuit is
Minamata disease was officially confirmed around Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture 67 years ago in Showa 31 (1956).
Alimony and medical care expenses have been paid to people who are recognized as having Minamata disease according to national standards, and according to the Ministry of the Environment, as of the end of August, a total of
3,000 people have received compensation, including 1,791 in Kumamoto Prefecture, 493 in Kagoshima Prefecture,
716 in Niigata Prefecture.
Currently, about 1,500 people in the three prefectures are seeking recognition as patients.
However, those who were not recognized as having Minamata disease filed a lawsuit.
As the trial dragged on, in 1995, the government tried to resolve the matter by paying a lump-sum payment to the national government, the prefecture, and the company responsible for the trial on the condition that the trial be withdrawn.
Nevertheless, some of the plaintiffs continued to be tried and in 2004, the Supreme Court recognized the responsibility of the state and others, and covered a wider range of health damages than the national standard.
This led to the promotion of compensation for lump-sum payments based on the Special Measures Law enforced in 2009.
Under the Special Measures Law, applications were accepted for about two years from 2010 (Heisei 22) for people who are not recognized as Minamata disease under national standards but may have been affected by mercury.
These political solutions and special measures laws have compensated more than 50,000 people.
However, under the Special Measures Law, there were people who could not receive compensation because the target was limited by "area" and "age" where they lived, and there were people who could not meet the application deadline.
These people have filed class-action lawsuits in Osaka, Kumamoto, Niigata, and Tokyo, and more than 1,700 people are seeking damages from the national government.