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Japan court finds Fukushima power plant operator liable for woman's suicide

[JURIST] The district court in Fukushima, Japan, ruled Tuesday that a woman's family may be compensated for her death after determining that her depression and suicide were caused by the March 2011 nuclear meltdown [IAEA backgrounder] of a nearby power plant. The family of chicken farmers lived in their mortgaged home in Yamakiya, 30 miles north of the Tokyo power plant that released harmful radiation after a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. After Yamakiya was determined to have unsafe levels of radioactivity, the family was forced to move from their farm. The wife, Hamako Watanabe, became depressed and committed suicide in July 2011. The court found the operator of the power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) [corporate website], responsible for the woman's death [Reuters report] and ordered to pay the family USD $472,000.

Japan's court system [official website, in English] has been busy adjudicating issues resulting from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster [JURIST news archive]. In August 2012 Japanese authorities opened a criminal investigation into the power plant meltdown after more than 1,300 people filed [JURIST reports] a criminal complaint against TEPCO for causing the catastrophe and the resulting radiation. The complaint came two months after an expert panel reported [JURIST report] that the disaster was preventable, and was not caused solely by the earthquake and tsunami, but that officials did not act quickly enough to prevent the meltdown. In March 2012 a group of TEPCO shareholders filed [JURIST report] a USD $67 billion lawsuit against TEPCO also for failing to prevent the disaster. In August 2011 five months after the meltdown, Japan's legislature voted [JURIST report] to compensate those adversely affected by the incident by creating a fund for dispensing money to such victims.

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