First E. coli civil case filed against city of Sakai

OSAKA — The parents of a 12-year-old girl who died after eating school lunches infected with the O-157 E. coli virus filed a suit against the Sakai Municipal Government on Jan. 16.The parents are seeking 78 million yen in damages, saying the city violated the Product Liability Law. The lawsuit, submitted to the Osaka District Court, is the first civil case to demand government compensation for O-157 food poisoning victims in Sakai.The parents of the sixth-grader have already requested that the Osaka District Prosecutor’s Office charge the city’s former superintendent with professional negligence resulting in the death of the child. According to the lawsuit, the girl showed symptoms of food poisoning on July 12 last year, was diagnosed as suffering from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and died of septicemia Aug. 16.The plaintiffs claim that the city failed to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of school lunches. Sakai had received warnings on school lunches from the Health and Welfare Ministry and the Osaka Prefectural Government after an outbreak of food poisoning in Oku, Okayama Prefecture in May.The city government could have foreseen the danger of food poisoning from school lunches, but still allowed uncooked food to be transported on trucks without air conditioners, and to be left unrefrigerated for nearly three hours, the plaintiffs said. This led to the fatal poisoning of their daughter, they added. The lawsuit also says that the city, which processes the school lunches, violated the Product Liability Law, since it failed to fulfill its obligation to ensure safety in school lunches, which students have no right to refuse. The victim’s father said he wants the city to admit its mistake and apologize for the loss of his daughter.