Time to put end to tainted blood cases: high court

Authorities, drug makers told to settle out of court

Kyodo

The Osaka High Court called on the government and drug makers Wednesday for a negotiated settlement of damages lawsuits filed by people who were infected with hepatitis C through tainted blood products.

With all parties concerned already expressing their intention to reach an out-of-court settlement, lawsuits involving more than 10,000 patients have come to a turning point since the first round of suits was filed in 2002.

In the lawsuits filed in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka and Sendai, all but the Sendai District Court have ruled that the government and drug makers are responsible for the infections.

In June 2006, the Osaka District Court ruled that the government and drug makers were responsible for nine out of 13 infected people and ordered them to pay a combined ¥256 million in damages. Both plaintiffs and defendants appealed the ruling.

In September, patients submitted a petition to the Osaka High Court to seek an out-of-court settlement, and the court recommended to the government and patients that they reach a negotiated settlement.

On Oct. 31, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda effectively admitted the government’s responsibility over the issue, while Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yoichi Masuzoe said Nov. 2 that the government will issue an apology and pay compensation.

Patients have sought an apology from the government as well as compensation for all plaintiffs.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne, infectious viral disease, which can cause liver inflammation that is often asymptomatic, but ensuing chronic hepatitis can result later in cirrhosis and liver cancer.

For related stories:

Bill in works to improve care of hepatitis patients
Masuzoe vows fast action on hep-C claims

Ministry finds IDs of hep C patients