HIROSHIMA – The Hiroshima High Court on Monday raised the amount of damages to be paid by a man sentenced to death for murdering five people and injuring 10 others in a 1999 rampage at JR Shimonoseki Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture, but following a lower court ruling did not assign responsibility to the man’s parents or West Japan Railway Co.
Nine plaintiffs had been seeking a total of 200 million yen in damages from Yasuaki Uwabe, 42, his parents and JR West. Uwabe is currently appealing his death sentence to the Supreme Court.
Uwabe drove into the station concourse in a rental car in the late afternoon of Sept. 29, 1999, mowing down seven pedestrians. He then proceeded to stab passersby inside the station with a knife.
In November 2004, the Shimonoseki branch of the Yamaguchi District Court ordered Uwabe to pay some 160 million yen in damages, but did not hold his parents or JR West accountable for the incident. The plaintiffs had appealed, arguing that Uwabe had no means to actually pay the money.
On Monday, the damages awarded were raised to about 170 million yen.
In handing down Monday’s ruling, presiding Judge Yoshiro Kusano said the defendant’s parents could not be held responsible for the actions of their son.
As for JR West, the judge said it was “extremely difficult” for a company that lacks the authority or resources of police, to be prepared for each and every possible crime.
“Even if we were to determine that such companies are obliged to take crime prevention measures, we cannot say that it is a legal responsibility,” he said, adding that the lack of a warning announcement over the station’s public address system or barriers that would have prevented vehicles from entering the concourse could not be recognized as negligence.
The change in the compensation amount was based on consideration of the extent of the victims’ injuries, according to the court.
During the appellate trial, the plaintiffs had argued that the railway failed to properly educate its employees on securing safety. JR West, for its part, had said that the incident was unexpected and could not have been prevented.
Noboru Nagafuji, who heads the plaintiffs’ group, said he was extremely dissatisfied with the ruling.
“The high court’s decision reaches the realms of irresponsibility for not recognizing any responsibility on the part of JR,” he told a news conference.
Meanwhile, the head lawyer for the plaintiffs, Shoji Tagawa, said they plan to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
In the criminal case, Uwabe was sentenced to death by the Shimonoseki branch of the Yamaguchi District Court and the decision was upheld by the Hiroshima High Court.