The government filed an appeal Friday with the Supreme Court against an April 27 Osaka High Court ruling that found the state failed to act to prevent mercury poisoning and ordered it to pay damages to victims of Minamata disease.
“The government has addressed the Minamata disease problem to the full extent of its available powers during the issue’s long history. It cannot accept the ruling that the state should compensate the plaintiffs for failing to exercise its power under two water quality laws in force at the time, nor the interpretation and application of these laws, which is the basis for this judgment,” Environment Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said.
“After reviewing the contents and significance of this ruling, and careful consideration of the effect on the government, we (in consultation with the Justice Ministry) reached the conclusion that there is a need to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court,” Kawaguchi said.
On April 27, the Osaka High Court overturned a 1994 Osaka District Court ruling and found the state, Kumamoto Prefecture and Chisso Corp. guilty in the case.
The court ordered the central government, the prefecture and the chemical company to jointly pay damages of 320 million yen to Minamata disease victims.
Thirty-eight people suffering from the disease as well as families of 20 deceased Minamata victims are seeking 1.9 billion yen in damages from the governments and Chisso.
The Kumamoto Prefectural Government also appealed the case to the Supreme Court on Friday. Meanwhile, Chisso Corp. decided to accept the high court ruling.
Although the amount of compensation granted to the victims by the high court was much smaller than they had demanded, the plaintiffs have welcomed the court’s recognition of the state’s liability.
Asked about the poor health of the plaintiffs involved in the 19-year-old suit, Kawaguchi said she feels sorry for them and hopes deliberations will be expedited.
Most of the plaintiffs, who previously resided in Kumamoto and Kagoshima prefectures but later moved to Osaka and other parts of western Japan, are in their 70s.
After hearing that the state would appeal, representatives of the plaintiffs expressed strong indignation.
Akira Iwamoto, deputy head of the group, said, “It is deeply regrettable.
“I think the government considers us insignificant people who count for nothing,” Iwamoto tearfully said at the Osaka District Court.
Toshiyuki Kawakami, head of the group, said, “I want to tell (those in the government) they are murderers.”
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