September 02, 2014
On Aug. 26, the Fukushima District Court ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to pay some 49 million yen in damages to the family of a 58-year-old woman who killed herself after she was forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima nuclear plant meltdown. The court recognized that 80 percent of the cause of her suicide was due to stress caused by the nuclear disaster and calculated the compensation amount accordingly. Therefore, the Mainichi Shimbun’s latest finding demonstrates the fact that the Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center has been reducing compensation to the families of those who died after evacuating from the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
The dispute resolution center calculates the amount of compensation for death in its settlement proposal by multiplying a “standard amount” by a percentage figure representing the impact of the nuclear accident upon the particular case at hand. For this reason, its decision on the contribution ratio of the nuclear disaster to the deaths vastly affects compensation payouts.
Based on the center’s replies to the Mainichi’s inquiries and explanations the center has given to lawyers for the victims, there are about 120 compensation proposals over deaths that the center has presented to the bereaved families so far. The highest contribution ratio of the nuclear accident it has assigned in these deaths is “50 percent,” and that covers just over 50 cases, or slightly more than 40 percent of the total. About 40 percent of the total cases are attributed to a contribution ratio of less than 50 percent. Only around 20 percent of the total cases are attributed to a contribution ratio of over 50 percent, while more than 80 percent of the cases are attributed to a contribution ratio of less than 50 percent.
The center also sets the standard compensation amount for such deaths at less than 20 million yen, several million yen less than the compensation payout for a traffic fatality. Therefore, the average compensation amount the center has proposed is likely to be no more than several million yen each.
The dispute resolution center’s internal document on methods of calculating compensation for deaths has already come to light. The document says the center sets compensation uniformly at “50 percent,” and if it is deemed difficult to apply the “50 percent rule,” a ratio of “10 percent” can be applied as an “exception,” among other details. Therefore, the center apparently has been making decisions on proposed compensation amounts based on these calculation methods.
In the case of the 58-year-old Fukushima woman’s suicide, TEPCO presented documents to the court. In the papers, the utility said that in the separate cases of a 30-year-old man who committed suicide after moving out of an evacuation zone to find shelter outside Fukushima Prefecture, and a 63-year-old woman in a then “standby evacuation zone” who killed herself, the center put the contribution ratio of the nuclear disaster to their deaths at 10 percent each.
The utility also said in the documents that in the case of a 64-year-old male farmer in a voluntary evacuation zone who committed suicide, the center put the contribution ratio at 30 percent. In the lawsuit filed by the bereaved family of the 58-year-old woman, TEPCO had insisted that the court calculate compensation for the woman based on a low contribution ratio of the nuclear disaster like the way the dispute resolution center was doing.
Motomitsu Nakagawa, one of the lawyers for the bereaved family of the 58-year-old woman, said, “Those who died during evacuation must have suffered stress similar to that for the woman. In no way can the dispute resolution center make an easy decision based on such things as ’50 percent across the board.'” On the finding that the ADR has set the causal relationship between over 80 percent of the deaths and the nuclear disaster at below 50 percent, he said, “It has become clear that the ADR cannot be trusted. It raises the question as to who the ADR is working for. Unless our clients ask for it, we will not use the ADR any longer.”