SAPPORO (Kyodo) The Sapporo District Court urged the government Tuesday to pay ¥500,000 in settlement to each asymptomatic hepatitis B virus carrier as it issued the first judicial view in a series of lawsuits filed nationwide by patients and carriers believed infected during group vaccinations.
While presenting its view on the most controversial point of whether to cover asymptomatic carriers in the settlement package, the court also called on the state to pay from ¥12.5 million to ¥36 million to those who have developed hepatitis B, depending on their condition, their lawyers said.
The government has denied carriers who do not show symptoms of the disease the right to claim compensation on grounds that the right’s statutory life of 20 years has passed, and instead proposed offering subsidies for their medical checkups.
Against this backdrop, what judicial judgment the district court would make on the carriers had been the main focus of the settlement negotiations between the state and five plaintiffs from Hokkaido that began last May prior to other courts with similar suits by victims of the vaccinations in which needles were believed repeatedly used.
The court-proposed settlement amounts for patients were also larger than the government’s earlier offer to pay ¥5 million to ¥25 million each, but are short of demands by the plaintiffs for up to ¥40 million.
Aside from settlement and subsidies for checkups, the court urged the state to pay them up to ¥30,000 a year each as transportation and other expenses necessary for undergoing health checks.
In reference to the court view, the lawyers said in a statement it deserves “a certain degree of recognition.”
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through blood and weakens the liver. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of carriers are believed to develop serious symptoms such as chronic liver inflammation, cirrhosis or liver cancer.
According to estimates by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, a total of 1.1 million to 1.4 million people carry hepatitis B and 90 percent of them remain asymptomatic, including up to 440,000 carriers infected by vaccinations and possbily subject to redress.
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