Lawsuits Spreading Nationwide Claiming Compensation for Damage Caused by the Nuclear Power Plant Accident
After the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident, teams of counsel for providing support to victims were formed across Japan. In particular, in local areas located far away from the disaster affected areas a number of counsel teams have been established based on each local bar association. In this document, we report on the trends regarding the growing number of lawsuits all across Japan.
Initially, each counsel team mainly focused on providing victims with legal advice, and they then gradually began to make applications to the Dispute Settlement Center for Nuclear Disaster Compensation (the “Dispute Settlement Center”) for mediated settlements (“Nuclear Damage ADR”).
In the meantime, the JFBA Headquarters for the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Nuclear Power Plant Accident (the “JFBA Headquarters”) has been providing local counsel teams with venues for opinion exchange meetings with the Dispute Settlement Center and information exchange sessions among counsel teams nationwide, with reference to issues surrounding Nuclear Damage ADR.
On the other hand, however, victims continue to have strong concerns about the fact that they may not be able to receive sufficient compensation from Nuclear Damage ADR to achieve full recovery. Further, after a full three years have passed since the Earthquake, there is now a growing move across the nation towards bringing lawsuits, acknowledging the feelings and situations faced by a number of victims who have not been able to get their lives back to where they used to be, or those who were left with no choice but to evacuate.
The diagram shown below describes the status of lawsuits that have been brought throughout Japan. The composition of the plaintiffs’ groups vary widely; there are a number of lawsuits which were filed by plaintiffs such as victims who have been evacuated from areas where evacuation orders were issued; there are also those who have taken refuge from areas subjected to voluntary evacuation, etc.; and in addition there are those who have been evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture and around the Kanto region to other areas. Among these lawsuits, since the progress of the related lawsuit filed at the Chiba District Court has been relatively fast, it is vital to keep an eye on the progress and final result of such litigation. Such lawsuits are followed by the lawsuits filed by other plaintiffs; mainly the victims living in Fukushima Prefecture (*1 - 4 in the diagram below) and the lawsuits filed at the Tokyo District Court. In terms of the remaining areas, substantive proceedings will also commence from now. In addition, further lawsuits are scheduled to be filed by approximately 1,000 people across Japan, including areas where other lawsuits have already been filed.
In line with the expansion of the movement of bringing cases to the court, a wide variety of unprecedented problems have come to light, namely: (i) the scope of victims that should be regarded as plaintiffs; (ii) in addition to TEPCO, whether or not the responsibility of the state should also be pursued; (iii) how the theory for the calculation of damages should be constructed, looking squarely at the actual status of victims; and (iv) how to consider the relationship between the content that should be fought over in ADR and the content that should be covered by litigation.
In order to deal with the above situations, as one of the information exchange meetings conducted by counsel teams across the nation, an opinion exchange meeting entitled “an ‘Introduction’ to the litigation seeking compensation for the damage caused by the nuclear power plant accident” has been conducted, which provided an opportunity to share and review the experiences and knowledge from the various litigation cases being conducted in each area, to thereby enable such counsel teams to respond to the actual situations being faced in each area. It is our mission as attorneys to continue to provide legal and recovery support to the victims and affected people, including by way of filing lawsuits. We sincerely hope and expect that these activities will continue nationwide.
Status of Major Group Action Lawsuits Concerning the Damage Caused by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident (as of February 26, 2014)