Man files lawsuit against TEPCO following wife's suicide

FUKUSHIMA —

A man from Fukushima Prefecture has filed a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) claiming the utility created the conditions that caused the suicide of his wife.

According to government figures, there have been over 60 suicides in the Tohoku region since last year’s earthquake and tsunami, which triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiiichi nuclear power plant, Fuji TV reported.

Mikio Watanabe, 61, and his family filed a lawsuit against TEPCO over the suicide of Watanabe’s wife, Hamako, 58. The Watanabes were forced to leave their home in Kawamata which was designated a no-go zone

Last July 1, Hamako returned to the home they had abandoned and set herself on fire in front of it. Lawyers representing victims of the nuclear crisis have attributed her depression and suicide to the nuclear disaster.

According to Watanabe, his wife had started to lose her appetite and was suffering from insomnia as a result of a prolonged period of living in shelters, Fuji reported. Watanabe requested compensation from TEPCO directly following the incident, but was refused.

Watanabe filed the suit on Friday at Fukushima District Court. He is seeking 91 million yen in damages from TEPCO in the first lawsuit over a suicide linked to the nuclear crisis.

Japan Today

  • 10

    jumpultimatestars

    Sounds like a reasonable claim to me; fork it over tepco!

  • 6

    smithinjapan

    "According to government figures, there have been over 60 suicides in the Tohoku region since last year’s earthquake and tsunami, which triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiiichi nuclear power plant, Fuji TV reported."

    Which means probably a hundred times as many are occuring, given that a number of people have been found in their temporary housing or shelters dead for two weeks or more. The saddest part is that even if this man, who lost pretty much everything, were to even see the inside of a court room (there's no way he'd win), TEPCO would backpedal, stall for time, and ultimately turn to the government to throw the case out. Companies like TEPCO will never be TRULY punished, and their execs never truly suffer (but be rewarded!) in Japan, and the victims will just keep piling up.

  • -10

    tmarie

    Nope, sorry. If someone commits suicide, that is their family's issue to deal with. Do those that off themselves before JR trains have families that sue the people or the companies that caused those suicides? Haven't heard of cases. The whole thing is a tragedy, certainly not denying that but I don't agree that people can sue for such things. Did she try and get help? Did she speak to anyone? Plenty of other people have it much worse (moms with small kids who lost their homes and husband's) who aren't doing this.

  • 5

    Yubaru

    Watanabe requested compensation from TEPCO directly following the incident, but was refused.

    If his residence was in the no-go zone I wonder why TEPCO refused his compensation claim?

    Nope, sorry. If someone commits suicide, that is their family's issue to deal with

    I think your logic is flawed, first off if TEPCO had stepped up to the plate and gave the guy and his wife compensation for their losses MAYBE this would not have happened in the first place. There is a lack of information in the article, but based upon what IS written there it seems to me at least that TEPCO bears SOME responsibility for her suicide.

    No one can say what would have happened if they were not forced to leave their homes and into refugee shelters, but chances are great that she would still be alive today if TEPCO had taken precautions prior to the tsunami to ensure that this did not happen.

  • 5

    tmarie

    As you asked, why didn't they get compensation? Problems with paperwork? They could have seen someone about it or perhaps they didn't do something properly? I am certainly not going to defend TEPCO on this but I just don't think we can start asking for money due to suicides. What about those people who lost everything, including family, in the tsunami who aren't killing themselves? What about those that did? Who do they get to blame?

    For all we know, this woman could have had issues before all of this happened. Like I said, it is a tragedy but come on, asking for money after a suicide? Rather crass. Japan needs to come to gripes with the notion that suicide is an answer for things. It isn't and families, regardless of the situation, shouldn't benefit from it. How do you put a price on such things?

    And yes, had TEPCO taken precautions but then we have to look at the government for ignored safety standards, the local government who took bags full of cash from TEPCO to set up shop... The list is endless as to who could be blamed.

  • -1

    Rick Kisa

    Suicides is one of the unsung effects of TEPCO's poor safety and security measures that resulted into the meltdown due to tsunami, leading to nuclear radiation and waste leakage to live with for thousands of years, displacements of people, etc. Nuke electricity is expensive, dirty, unsustainable, unethical and socially and environmentally suicidal.

  • -4

    the-grouch

    I personally think that TEPCO is not responsible. She planned and executed her own death. If her family wins this suit, so many other people are gonna screw TEPCO over also. This case is not valid in any way. Suicide was not the answer. We have to remember that this was all from a natural disaster and Fukushima Daiichi Genpatsu was just the aftermath of a serious but inevitable chain of events.

  • 4

    zichi

    the-grouch

    We have to remember that this was all from a natural disaster and Fukushima Daiichi Genpatsu was just the aftermath of a serious but inevitable chain of events.

    ex PM Kan, called the nuclear disaster a man made one (TEPCO) and I would support that. But TEPCO are not responsible for this man's wife's suicide.

    But TEPCO are not helping the nuclear refugee's with the very slow process over compensation payments.

  • 3

    Yubaru

    I am certainly not going to defend TEPCO

    However in effect you are defending TEPCO, making assumptions about issues that were not raised in the article. As i previously wrote there is a "lack of information in the article", BUT based upon what is there "TEPCO bears SOME responsibility".

    What about those people who lost everything, including family, in the tsunami who aren't killing themselves? What about those that did? Who do they get to blame?

    Many of them are getting compensation, and of course not everyone commits suicide, they are as a fact of the matter, on the rise amongst the people who have been displaced and lost everything because of the disaster.

    This is not about EVERYONE affected by the tsunami or earthquake. It's about TEPCO and the nuclear fall out which created the no-go zone in the first place.

    Specifically the people displaced by the nuclear disaster at Fukushima should in my opinion, be compensated to some degree by TEPCO. Some more than others of course, but ANYONE that was displaced and had to move into shelters, even though they had (assuming here sorry) perfectly good homes (residences) prior to the fallout, have a right to expect said compensation from TEPCO.

    The paperwork, as noted here on JT previously, for compensation from TEPCO was daunting and hideously difficult for even those who knew what they were doing, one CAN NOT expect everyone to have the same capabilities.

  • 0

    johninnaha

    Why does a court even bother to hear this rubbish?

  • 4

    tmarie

    However in effect you are defending TEPCO, making assumptions about issues that were not raised in the article. Where on earth am I defending them and what assumptions did I make?

  • 9

    Cos

    Plenty of other people have it much worse (moms with small kids who lost their homes and husband's) who aren't doing this.

    But they are wrong. Plenty of people should do this too. I mean sue Tepco, not suicide. In a normal system, this guy would have matter for the trial even if his wife was "only" in care at hospital for depression, even if she was in good health. The people in the tsunami, that's another thing. But I have still not stomached the fact that Tepco told people to leave their houses and they have let them rot months in shelters. Sorry, but when they took the deal to exploit the power plant, they had to prepare in case of accident. There could have been accidents without any earthquake. And in such case, giving emergency money and compensating the evacuees would have been clearly at their charge. That was their duty to budget some money for evacuation, or arrange with insurances.

    Did she try and get help? Did she speak to anyone?

    Yes, it's written in the article. He talked to Tepco, from their shelter : "Watanabe requested compensation from TEPCO directly following the incident, but was refused.".

    If his residence was in the no-go zone I wonder why TEPCO refused his compensation claim?

    That was not only him. That's because all the inhabitants of the no-go zone didn't get a yen from Tepco. In the first months, they had to manage themselves to relocate staying with relatives or paying on their savings, and if they couldn't afford it like this couple, they were like homeless (just in a gym instead of a park), eating bread and cup noodles as they couldn't buy anything. I remember seeing on the news, a group of such people that where in a shelter at walking distance from the Tepco head office and everyday, they'd go there and ask any Tepco staff leaving the building : "And you ? What do you eat today ? Where do you sleep ?", showing them the food and shelter. Not even Tepco's shelters. And Tepco refused to talk to any of them, they didn't even pay them a can of juice from a vending machine. After months, they received a first sum, as an advance, as that was at least decided by the government. I don't remember the amount, but that was like a year of income, so that's barely enough to leave the shelter and survive for a while. For the rest, the real compensation for losing the houses around the plant, they are still waiting as Tepco delays saying "Well, maybe some people can get their house back after we clean, so we don't pay yet for your house...". But very clearly, 2 months after the accident, that was known most of these houses would not be used again. Or that will be in 15 years when they will be ruins.

    But TEPCO are not responsible for this man's wife's suicide.

    That's probably the only pretext he can sue them for messing HIS life. Tepco's plan is to wait till the evacuated families die, so there is nobody left to compensate. Of suicide or old age, whatever. And in Japan that's totally plausible. The plaintiffs for Narita airport waited what ? 30 years ? And for Minamata ? Even more.

  • -7

    the-grouch

    My comment may sound rude and irresponsible but TEPCO was and has been responsible. If you look atall the red tape that they have had to cross over, its overwhelming. COMPENSATION- if ever, will be set on what she was valued at, a teacher, a lawyer, a housewife etc. BTW housewives,by law, are valued that much. He'll probably get a toaster oven, if that.

  • 5

    GW

    Grouch,

    The thing with tepco is that for DECADES they lied & cheated & PROFITED! Note that last bit.

    If tepco had truly done a lot of prep work for quake/tsunami but were truly overwhelmed ................... BUT tepco falsified reports same as nuke plants country wide, cut MASSIVE corners ALL THE TIME, and EXTENDED the "life" of nuke plants that shut have been shut down to PROFIT MORE & MORE

    And now tepco is hiding under the govt/japan incs god damned SKIRT!

    ALL the execs pensions/bonuses MUST be frozen & transfered into state coffers, 100% of it.

    BUT NOTHING IS REALLY HAPPENING & its been more than a year.

    I wish this guy EVERY SUCCESS in his lawsuit, even tho I know I will be paying part of it, IF HE WINS, unlikely tho it WILL BE!

  • 0

    tmarie

    I mean sue Tepco, not suicide. That I would agree with. Just not asking for a payout for a suicide.

    And with regards to help, I meant a shrink, a social worker... We don't know why they didn't get comp - like I suggested, perhaps paperwork problems? If she was sound of mind and decided to make a statement (which seems like she was with burning) I can't see why TEPCO should be help responsible for her deciding to make a political statement (monks often burn themselves to make such statements) and end her life. I think it is a selfish thing to do - more so when her family has suffered so much already.

  • 0

    Erik Lars

    I believe having a depressing life makes you depressed. Call me crazy.

  • -4

    iceshoecream

    That she couldn't deal with real life and killed herself is not TEPCO's fault. She's the only one guilty.

  • 2

    Erik Lars

    @smithinjapan

    Companies like TEPCO will never be TRULY punished..

    Actually, TEPCO employees have received threats and been the targets of bullying:

    "TEPCO workers quitting due to threats, sense of despair" -Japan Today http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/tepco-workers-quitting-due-to-threats-sense-of-despair

    It's only a matter of time before Karma comes a-knocking on the company door.

  • 0

    presto345

    Ultimately it is the authorities that bear the responsibility for the physical and psychological damage the nuclear disaster caused by a natural disaster has created. It's the authorities that gave the go for the construction of the plant, it's the authorities that failed to recognize the weakness and the dangers and / or act upon warnings. Suing the utility, threatening their personnel is the wrong course of action.

  • 0

    Yubaru

    Where on earth am I defending them and what assumptions did I make?

    As you asked, why didn't they get compensation? Problems with paperwork? They could have seen someone about it or perhaps they didn't do something properly? I am certainly not going to defend TEPCO on this but I just don't think we can start asking for money due to suicides

    You assumed that the family may or not have had problems with paperwork, assumed that they did or did not file correctly or properly.

    Did she try and get help? Did she speak to anyone?

    Assumed or asked if she sought out help but inferred that the suicide was due to her "problems" and not related to the problems that she experienced because she had to become homeless due to TEPCO's incompetence.

    For all we know, this woman could have had issues before all of this happened. Like I said, it is a tragedy but come on, asking for money after a suicide? Rather crass. Japan needs to come to gripes with the notion that suicide is an answer for things. It isn't and families, regardless of the situation, shouldn't benefit from it. How do you put a price on such things?

    Questioning or inferring that the woman may have had issues prior to the disaster and inferring as well that TEPCO should not be held responsible for her actions.

    TEPCO, AGAIN, holds SOME, maybe not all, but SOME responsibility for her death and owes her husband compensation for putting him through the crap that he has gone through because they would not provide compensation for their misdeeds in the first place.

  • 0

    Disillusioned

    As much as I do support this action and hopefully the family will receive compensation, the fact is, just about every person in Japan has been directly effected by TEPCO's SNAFU through lost earnings or just inconvenienced by power cuts, which has been responded to by increasing electricity prices. And, it is not just TEPCO that is responsible. The J-Gov is also responsible for letting TEPCO get away with not updating the safety of this plant after they were warned several times in the last decade that the plant was not safe. I lost my teaching job as a direct result of the meltdown in Fukushima and was severely financially inconvenienced for three months after the meltdown until I was able to find other employment. What do you think I was told when I applied for compensation? Stick it to 'em! Take these bastards for everything you can get!

  • 1

    JoshuYaki

    People treat mental injury like it isn't anything. "oh just get over it." This is a legitimate injury as a result of poor planning saturation of useless beurocracy and use of an inappropriate power source. Compensation is due for sure...

  • 0

    Open Minded

    I do not think TEPCO can be sued for suicide, otherwise every J-company will be. However hopefully yes for procastinating on not taking swift relief compensation. Just like any company should be sued for bullying an employee.

  • 0

    Christina O'Neill

    Mister Watanabe San, no amount of money will bring back what you have lost, but I think you are right to sue TEPCO. It seems the only way to make this company regret their actions is to hit them in the wallet. I wish you every success and also send you my condolences

  • 1

    Steve Mcgrew

    This is such a sad story..The world needs to wake up and pay attention to the human suffering that is happening in the area affected by the failed NNP. I pray for this man and all of this woman's family members and friend, that they may they somehow find away to recover from all the tragic circumstances that have been and are a factor in their daily lives TEPCO and the Japanese government can and should be doing more to insure that those forced from their homes are better,faster and more fairly compensated for the hardships that have been placed upon them and insuring that those that are suffering mental stress or illness are receiving treatment .. Yes,the Earth Quake and Tsunami were natural occurring events but the (Man Made) industrial disaster is a bigger factor and is the only reason thousands can never return to their communities,homes and livelihoods. Many have been forced into poverty,and will never again regain the things they have lost. These NPPs was built near a known fault line and in an area with historic records of strong quakes and horrific tsunami occurrences . The Government approved the project, GE designed these plants,TEPCO contracted to have these plant built and was the owner operator, yet none of these powerful entities now want to acknowledge that the plants were not designed to withstand the forces of the natural disasters that were not only possible but eventually quite probable. The safety back up controls and the needed back up electrical generation systems were poorly designed and failed. This man may never be fully compensated for the misery and devastation he must live with for the rest of his life..His wife could no longer bare the strain and still he must battle in court for proper compensation...There but for the grace of God, pure luck,fate or whatever one believes in go us all...I pray he finds peace in his heart, mind and soul.

  • -3

    Elbuda Mexicano

    Time to SUE, SUE SUE the hell out of evil TEPCO! Show them and all of these greedy electricity companies a good lesson! RIP poor folk who committed suicide because of Tepco and all of their radiation etc..

  • 2

    Tigerta9

    @tmarie - it is painful listening to you try to defend yourself. Shame on you for attempting to condemn this poor woman and for suggesting that she should've (if she didn't already!!) apply solutions based your "common sense" culture first. You must have no idea about the stigma of seeking mental health treatment in Japan- she was living a public shelter for chrissakes!! Further you have no idea what these people who have been displaced and denigrated to refugee like and in some cases Untouchable status are going through and to compare them to your typical or general suicide case is at best "ignorance." It seems that Tepco has a culture and history of being miserly and putting profits before people and that they need to really make the lives of these folks as whole again as they can - yesterday, otherwise this will not be last case of someone finding the pain and frustration of their destroyed lives absolutely unbearable. And to add insult to the indignity of it all they'll have YOU to pass judgement on them for seeking redress!!

  • 1

    Kamala Brown-Sparks

    Tmarie **** you are talking about two completely different things, as we the States...you can't compare apples & oranges. If someone choose to use a train as their method for committing suicide, then why would their family sue JR? But, you must be living in your own little EUTOPIA, if you think that TEPCO's irresponsible and negligent handling of Fukushima was not the factor that directly contributed to her death. She didn't use anything from TEPCO, although the radiation probably wasn't something that would contribute to her longevity.

  • -2

    Al Stewart

    I'm sorry. Yes Tepco did a poor job but they did not create the disaster. Also, suicide is choice. You choose to give up. Tepco did not kill her.

    I'm sorry for his loss, but he should not win.

  • 1

    imap2223

    This is not TEPCO's fault. They maybe miserly. They may have put money before people. But fact is, she did it. She should have sought mental help. But instead, she ended her life. Not thinking of her family and what it would do to them. Sounds like she had some serious issues anyway that needed to be worked on. You don't do that to your family. She gave on her family. TEPCO shouldn't pay a yen for this. But for other things that they did wrong.

  • -2

    tmarie

    **You assumed that the family may or not have had problems with paperwork, assumed that they did or did not file correctly or properly. **

    No, I didn't. I made a suggestion as to why they didn't get comp. A suggestion is not the same as an assumption.

    **Assumed or asked if she sought out help but inferred that the suicide was due to her "problems" and not related to the problems that she experienced because she had to become homeless due to TEPCO's incompetence. **

    Asking is not an assumption. Do you know what the word "Assume" means because from what you've written on here, it doesn't seem that you do. If anything, YOU'RE making assumptions that this was because she was made homeless. Where did you get that from as it wasn't written in the article that she offed herself for being homeless.

    **Questioning or inferring that the woman may have had issues prior to the disaster and inferring as well that TEPCO should not be held responsible for her actions.

    TEPCO, AGAIN, holds SOME, maybe not all, but SOME responsibility for her death and owes her husband compensation for putting him through the crap that he has gone through because they would not provide compensation for their misdeeds in the first place.**

    Yes, heaven forbid someone ask if this woman has a history of mental illness before her family gets a payout. Do you get out suing works??

    How do you know TEPCO holds some? Have you investigated? If anything, his wife was the one that put him through this "crap" of her death because SHE was the one that killed herself, not TEPCO. Do you know that she killed herself because of lack of compensation? I missed that in the article. Can you point out where it is? If anyone is making assumptions here, it certainly isn't me.

    **People treat mental injury like it isn't anything. "oh just get over it." ** You know, people say this but I have never, ever heard someone make this suggestion. Nor have I ever read such a comment on JT. No one here is saying that.

    Tiger, you're also making lots of assumptions. You have no idea my experience with mental illness in Japan, let alone my experience with family members who kill themselves, here or elsewhere. Yes, heaven forbid "common sense" were to rule here... Suicide is never the best option and is a rather selfish one. A family trying to make money off it is rather crass. More so when there are so many factors and so many dirty hands in it all.

    Kamala, can you be 100% sure that TEPCO is the direct contributor? If so, how? You're also making assumptions. She didn't use anything from TEPCO? How do you know that?

    The whole thing is tragic but I wonder if any of you actually have a clue about how suing for compensation works. There are so many factors to look at and most of you are just out with pitchforks, demanding blood. I hate TEPCO as much as you do but come on, a little thinking here folks.

  • 0

    Kamala Brown-Sparks

    She should've sought mental help...ROTFLMFBAO, wow! You've found a spot in Japan that has easily accessible, QUALITY mental health resources...do tell, where is it at? I NEVER claimed that TEPCO was the sole factor that contributed to her death, but I think her family would know what she was thinking far more than you or I. When I said she didn't use anything from TEPCO I was being facetious, sorry it went over your head. Her family isn't suing over anything that was used to kill herself, at least it's not stated in this piece. I do indeed understand the process, perhaps you didn't read my post as closely as you think you did.....you'll notice that I didn't say that I thought the husband would win his suit. Tmarie--she could've indeed have a history of mental illness, but as far as we know there is nothing stating she was suicidal before this incident...so could this incident not have been the exacerbating incident? Therefore, TEPCO should still be responsible for some percentage of her death, even if she did have some sort of previous mental illness.

  • -1

    Thomas Michael Lewis

    Tepco is not to blame, nor is the woman, Japans backward system and way of treating people with mental illness (i.e. Depression) is the problem. Or the media and the hype they have created over the event, all the scaremongering people have been doing are responsible for her suicide. Blaming a company for a natural disaster and its repercussions is rediculous. I sincerely feel for the woman and the man, but trying to blame someone is not going to bring her back.

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