The state will file with the Supreme Court today an appeal against a ruling by the Osaka High Court ordering it to compensate victims of Minamata disease, according to government sources.

Today is the deadline for filing an appeal, a move that would dash the hopes of dozens of victims for an end to the case.

On April 27, the high court ruled that the central and Kumamoto Prefectural governments and a chemical firm pay 320 million yen in damages to sufferers of Minamata disease and to families of victims who have died.

The decision overturned a lower court ruling in 1994 that ordered only the chemical firm, Chisso Corp., to pay 276 million yen to 42 of the claimants, clearing the two governments of liability in failing to prevent or contain the mercury poisoning.

The central government will not only question the high court’s ruling that held it administratively liable for the fiasco, but also that the ruling expanded the definition of Minamata disease sufferers from the standards applied by the state, the sources said.

“Both the central government and Kumamoto Prefecture could have determined that the waste water from (Chisso’s) factories was the cause of the pollution, but failed to curtail the spread of the damage through the imposition of restrictions on waste water dumping,” the high court ruled. It added that even those with sensory disabilities should be considered sufferers of the disease if they shared the same diet as those already recognized as Minamata disease victims. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands of others were disabled or born with defects as a result of mercury poisoning in Minamata, Kumamoto Prefecture, in the 1950s and ’60s.

Subsequent probes showed that mercury compounds that were dumped into Minamata Bay by Tokyo-based Chisso were the direct cause of the disease, which attacks the central nervous system and was named after the town where it was first diagnosed.

The suit in question was filed in 1982 by 38 people who said they were suffering from the disease and the families of 20 people who had died, seeking 1.9 billion yen from the three defendants.

Of these 58, the high court granted compensation from the three parties to 45, while six were awarded damages from Chisso alone. The demands of the remaining seven were dismissed.

The April 27 ruling was the first on the poisoning case to be handed down by a high court.

Other lawsuits involving Minamata disease sufferers had been settled after plaintiffs agreed to a central government compromise deal. This case is the only one still ongoing.

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