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Home > Outline of Japan's Industrial Pollution Abatement > Approaches to Water Pollution Control (Case Study-2) Minamata City, Kumamoto Prefecture > (2) Minamata Disease Compensation Trials

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Update:April 1, 2010

(2) Minamata Disease Compensation Trials

3.Public Health Protection

In November 1959, the Minamata Disease Victims Mutual Aid Society (later renamed as Minamata Disease Patient's Families Mutual Aid Society) sued Chisso for damages due to their industrial activities. The Mutual Aid Society finally signed a consolation/compensation contract with Chisso in December of the same year after a long disagreement because of the difference between the amounts proposed by both sides. The contract included a clause to the effect that Chisso shall not be responsible for further compensation even if the liability of the plant discharge is officially confirmed in later days.
Later, when Minamata Disease was designated as the pollution-related disease by the national government, the dispute between the patients and Chisso resurfaced again. In 1969, the Ministry of Health and Welfare established the Minamata Disease Compensation Committee to mediate between them. The Mutual Aid Society was then split into two, the hard-liners who intended direct negotiation without "the Committee" and those who preferred to leave the matter to the committee.
In 1959, the Law concerning Special Measures for the Relief of the Pollution-related patients was enacted. Minamata City and its vicinage were designated as the target area for pollution control and pollution-related patients were newly recognized in succession. Then, the mafler of compensation for these newly-recognized patients arose to further complicate the issue.
In June 1969, aggressive members of the Mutual Aid Society presented a case to the Kumamoto District Court demanding compensation from Chisso (1st Trial). The Kumamoto District Court then affirmed the corporate social responsibility of Chisso and ordered them to pay damage compensation, declaring the existing contract of 1959 to be invalid for its lack of public order and morals. Later, Minamata Disease Damage Compensation Claims were brought to the second trial at the Fukuoka High Court. The third trial of the above case and some other lawsuit have been instituted in different cities, Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Fukuoka, and continued even at present for the judgement of the administrative responsibility of the national government and Kumamoto Prefecture for their negligence in preventing the outbreak and spread of the disease according to the State Redress Law together with Chisso'sliability. On the other hand, the moderate faction of the Matual Aid society reconciled with Chisso with a contract eluding its legal responsibilities.
In July 1972, the Central Council for Environmental Pollution of the national government organized the Minamata Disease Compensation Mediation Committee and launched mediation of other patients' organizations. After repeated negotiations and meetings, they finally presented the proposal of compensation agreement including establishment of the Minamata Disease Patients Medical Treatment Guarantee Fund (for which Chisso donated 300 million yen as operating capital) on the basis of the judgement at Kumamoto High Court and former arbitration proposals. The proposal was signed, being witnessed by the people involved.
The agreement is regarded as applicable to all officially-recognized patients if desired, and the other patients has later received similar compensation.