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The Otsu District Court has determined that the 2011 suicide of a 13-year-old boy in Otsu, Shiga Prefecture, was caused by bullying by his junior high classmates. It ordered two of them and their parents to pay ¥37.5 million in damages to the victim’s family. In damages suits over suicide of bullying victims, the plaintiffs often face the high hurdle of proving not only that the bullying caused the victims to take their own life, but also that the bullies were able to foresee the risk of the victims killing themselves as a result of their acts — and in many cases courts have failed to recognize the causal link between the bullying and the suicide. The latest court ruling should serve as a reminder of the grave consequences that bullying can have, and prompt further actions by all relevant parties to prevent this evil phenomenon.

In the high-profile case of the Otsu boy, who jumped to his death in October 2011, municipal authorities initially acknowledged the acts of bullying against the victim but would not recognize that his death was the result of the bullying. Only after the boy’s family sued the city and his classmates, and a third-party probe confirmed the persistent violence and harassment inflicted on the victim, did the city admit fault for not preventing his suicide and reached a settlement with the family. Meanwhile, the case triggered the enactment of legislation requiring schools to report on and take adequate steps to deal with severe cases of bullying.

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