August 31st, 2014
The governmental Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center, tasked with reaching out-of-court settlements for individual claims filed over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns, has set compensation uniformly at 50 percent, a document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun has confirmed.
The internal document is being circulated among center staff and used in the processing of individual cases — calling into serious doubt the center’s previous denials that the “50 percent rule” had been an official practice.
The center calculates the total amount of damages for pain and suffering in individual settlement proposals by multiplying a base amount by a percentage figure representing the impact of the nuclear accident upon the particular case at hand.
On July 9, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that Hiroshi Noyama, former head of the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution mediation office (the section of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry serving as secretariat to the center) had attested during an interview that “the decision had been made to assess the contribution ratio (of the nuclear accident to the deaths) at around 50 percent.” It was also reported in the same article that the contribution ratio had indeed been set at 50 percent in numerous cases. Noyama’s successor Joji Danto, a former judge, denied Noyama’s testimony, however.
“I don’t know what Noyama said, but there are no rules in place,” he stated. Danto also commented on July 14, while attending a regular meeting of several teams of lawyers offering support to survivors of the nuclear disaster, “We are continually asked by numerous sources whether a ’50 percent rule’ exists (with respect to the compensation). To this, we say a resolute ‘no.’”
The document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun, however — four A4-sized pages dated Dec. 26, 2012 — includes the following statement: “(Compensation) shall be set across the board at 50 percent. Fine adjustments, such as setting the figure at 40 or 60 percent, shall not be made.”
The document also states that “the operation (of the 50 percent rule) is in the process of being established at the practical level.” The document additionally reveals the possibility for individual settlement proposals to be set at lower amounts, stating, “When it is difficult to ascertain that the 50 percent rule should be applied, it is possible as an exception to set the figure at 10 percent.”
The document additionally notes that it is possible to set the base amount of compensation at a lower level than that established for standard lawsuits, and that details such as medical records or opinions from doctors shall not be taken into significant consideration when deciding final compensation amounts — corroborating previous Mainichi reports.
In addition to the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution mediation office, the center also employs examiners who organize documents submitted by both disaster survivors and Fukushima No. 1 plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., as well as mediating officers responsible for drawing up the actual settlement offers — all of whom are lawyers.
According to a source affiliated with the center, the document obtained by the Mainichi was authored by an employee of the mediation office, and subsequently distributed among several examiners.
An official who previously served as an examiner commented, “I explained the content of the document to the mediating officers,” adding, “If it appeared that an individual settlement offer was not going to be in line with the document’s guidelines, I pointed it out to the mediating officer” — thereby revealing that the document has in fact been used as a standard.
Center representatives initially claimed that “no such document exists.” They later followed up by saying, “(We found) that such a document did exist,” but continued to deny that it served as a standard guideline, saying, “It is possible that it was simply a personal memo.”