FUKUOKA – Fukuoka High Court on Friday declined to recognize eight plaintiffs as sufferers of Minamata disease, rejecting their demand for a total of some ¥300 million in damages from the government and other defendants.
In the lawsuit, the eight members of a Minamata disease-related mutual-aid group claimed that they had been damaged by methylmercury pollution in the fetal stage or childhood. They demanded damages from the central government, Kumamoto Prefecture and chemical-maker Chisso Corp., which caused the pollution.
According to the suit, the plaintiffs were born in Kumamoto or neighboring Kagoshima Prefecture between 1953 and 1960. They claimed to have been exposed to methylmercury through the intake of polluted seafood. The plaintiffs said they suffer from sensory-impairment unique to Minamata disease, as well as headaches and dizziness.
One male plaintiff, with serious symptoms, demanded some ¥190 million in damages, while the other seven each sought ¥17 million including the amount that is the same as the minimum lump-sum payment by Chisso to recognized sufferers.
The high court decision overturned a lower court ruling in which three of the eight plaintiffs were recognized as suffering from Minamata disease and awarded compensation ranging from ¥2.2 million to ¥105 million for a total of about ¥110 million.
In the 2014 Kumamoto District Court decision, two of the three plaintiffs were recognized as Minamata disease sufferers based on other members in their families also being recognized as patients. The male plaintiff was recognized due to the severity of his symptoms, despite not having family members recognized as Minamata disease patients.