TOKYO -- The Supreme Court on Dec. 13 upheld the lower court ruling ordering Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay about 16 million yen in compensation to a man in his 40s and his family that voluntarily evacuated Fukushima Prefecture to western Japan after the 2011 nuclear disaster.
The top court's First Petty Bench confirmed an Osaka High Court ruling handed down in October 2017 that recognized the man had developed depression due to the disaster and became unable to work. It marked the first time that a ruling awarding compensation to voluntary evacuees from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster has been finalized by the top court, according to a legal team for victims of the nuclear crisis.
Meanwhile, the First Petty Bench led by Chief Justice Katsuyuki Kizawa avoided mentioning the rationality of voluntary evacuation and other points in question as it turned down appeals from both sides against the high court ruling due to "insufficient grounds."
According to the lower court rulings, the man from Japan's northeastern Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama owned multiple restaurants and voluntarily evacuated with his family to locations outside the prefecture shortly after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis. The owner suffered from insomnia and was diagnosed with depression in September 2011, after relocating to the western Japan city of Kyoto.
TEPCO had already paid around 2.9 million yen to the family of five based on the government's compensation standards. However, the man and his family deemed the amount inadequate and filed a lawsuit demanding about 180 million yen from TEPCO.
In its ruling handed down in February 2016, the Kyoto District Court ordered the utility pay about 30 million yen to the family after recognizing the causal relationship between the nuclear disaster and the man's depression. The amount included compensation for the man and his wife's mental suffering and damage caused by the man's taking a leave of absence from work.
However, it upheld the government's evacuation order standards. District court judges determined that voluntary evacuation would be rational only until August 2012 because "it's difficult to recognize health damage from exposure to radiation below 20 millisieverts per year."
After both parties appealed the district court ruling, the Osaka High Court basically agreed with the decision but ruled that the man only needed treatment for depression for two years due to the disaster, instead of four and a half years. Consequently, the high court had considerably reduced the compensation money awarded to the man due to his absence from work.
(Japanese original by Naotaka Ito, City News Department)