KUMAMOTO (Kyodo) A group of unrecognized victims of Minamata disease reached an out-of-court settlement Friday with Chisso Corp., the chemical maker responsible for causing the mercury-poisoning disease, over a damages suit at the Kumamoto District Court.

The settlement involves the largest number of plaintiffs — 2,492 — among a series of lawsuits against Chisso and marks a major turning point in redressing the victims of the mercury-poisoning disease since it was officially recognized in 1956.

The move came after 194 plaintiffs reached a settlement Thursday at the Tokyo District Court. Another 307 will follow suit at the Osaka District Court on Monday.

Under the settlement, Chisso will pay a ¥2.1 million lump sum to some 90 percent of the plaintiffs as well as an additional ¥2.95 billion to the group. The central government and Kumamoto Prefectural Government will shoulder part of the victims’ medical costs.

The plaintiffs will not file any more damages suits or apply for official recognition as Minamata disease patients.

The group’s damages suit was initially filed in Kumamoto in October 2005, followed by those in Tokyo and Osaka.

The neurological illness in Kyushu was caused by mercury-tainted water dumped into the sea by Chisso.

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