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China court rejects tainted milk class action lawsuit

[JURIST] The Hebei Supreme Court in China on Monday rejected a class action suit filed against government-owned dairy farm Shijiazhuang Sanlu Group Co. by the families of children who died or were harmed as a result of tainted milk. Lawyers for the families said [AP report] that the while the prosecutor's office accepted their papers, it refused to accept the suit because the government was still investigating. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of 63 plaintiffs, lays out a compensation package of about $991,000 for medical fees, food and transportation for the families involved, and about $1 million for psychological damage. Lawyers plan to continue pursuing the case.

In October, the lawyers representing the families said that they had been pressured by Chinese officials [JURIST report] to stop providing legal support and to leave the issue to government authorities. Last month, lawyers said they would proceed with the class action suit [JURIST report]. News of possible milk powder contamination by the chemical melamine first broke in September [Guardian report], following the death of an infant and reports that at least 50 other infants had fallen ill after consuming baby formula, leading to massive recalls [BBC report] of both liquid milk products and milk powders. The Health Ministry has attributed the contamination to the deaths of six children, and at least 294,000 other children were affected. So far, police have arrested at least 36 people [AFP report] in connection with the scandal.

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