Saturday, August 10, 2013

Idiosyncratic Japan: 85-Year-Old Wife of 91-Year-Old Man Killed by Train Ordered by Court to Pay 7.2 Million Yen in Damages to Train Operator

I do hope it is indeed "idiosyncratic" to Japan and nowhere else, but I could be negatively surprised.

I thought it was a joke of some kind when I saw tweets with the link to the article, like the Japanese version of Onion News Network (which is less funny these days as the reality becomes more hilarious by the day). It wasn't.

The focus of people in Japan was on the fact that the remaining family members - 85-year-old wife and her son - was deemed responsible at all times for the man who suffered from severe dementia.

My focus was, what the hell did the train operator - JR Tokai - sue the family for?

Here's how Mr. Tetsu Ueda, chief justice of the Nagoya district court in Aichi Prefecture decided, according to Nikkei Shinbun (8/10/2013):

The court orders the wife of the man and their eldest son to pay full 7,200,000 yen to JR Tokai for damages demanded by JR Tokai for train delay stemming from the fatal accident in which the man, 91 years old at the time of the accident, entered the railroad track and was hit by a train in December 2007.

The man had been diagnosed with the severe dementia that required care at all times.

The man slipped outside when the wife, then 85 years old, was not looking. Judge Ueda decided that the wife was negligent in performing her duties as caregiver. Judge Ueda also accused the eldest son who didn't live with the parents for not providing the appropriate measures to prevent roaming.

The family argued that it was impossible for the then-85-year-old wife to monitor her husband all the time. But Judge Ueda said the family could have hired a helper, and said "The prerequisite for the care of the man was that a caregiver keep an eye on him at all times. Therefore the family was negligent."





And so they will be made to pay 7.2 million yen to a large train operator because the man had dementia and roamed into the railroad track and hit by a train, causing some delay in train schedule and supposedly some loss of revenue for the operator.

The same Japanese justice system is NOT going to prosecute anyone from TEPCO's former top management and DPJ's politicians under the Kan administration over the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. But it has no problem indicting the now 91-year-old woman and ordering her to pay damages arising from her negligence, of not taking care of her husband.

The system goes after easier targets, and that's unfortunately universal.


Anonymous said...

I hope the unfortunate lady and her son will appeal this sentence. We'll see.
Alas, they probably are weak, full sorrow, and lonely.
They're old, and Japan being Japan... I don't expect neither the boycott nor the riots that such a sentence would spark in other cases (young ones) or countries.
Going after easy targets is a never changing trend in history and variety of human justice experience, but I wouldn't take it as a flat data.
Even the rulers can get there fingers burned - especially when they get over-confident in their grotesque behaviour.

Père Ubu.

Vyse Legendaire said...

In America, the elderly wife would have a good chance at being sentenced to months in prison, and even moreso if she were suffering from a debilitating illness. The U.S. justice system is not just unfair, but it specializes in cruel and unusual punishments.

Anonymous said...

Vyse, and tasered for resisting arrest...

Anonymous said...

Not a Japan-only thing, as always. Doesn't matter what country, law is often devoid of logic, common sense or realistic context.

Stupid shit like this happens everywhere, because there are stupid people everywhere.

Anonymous said...

While America is certainly the most litigious-happy society on the planet and the possibilities for any number of lawsuits from an incident like this could feeling is that the only way an 85yr. old woman would be held responsible for the death on the train tracks of her 91 yr. old husband suffering from dementia is if she wheeled him down there and shoved him in front of the oncoming train. The skyrocketing number of people being swept into the mind destroying sea of Alzheimer's is simply heartbreaking.Trying to picture the judge or jury that would convict her...can't see that happening

Anonymous said...

My friend in Osaka tried to hire a caregiver for his aging mother who has recently become immobile after a fall. He contacted the city offices that certify and dispatch caregivers, according to the national health system. Those office people contacted at least two dozen care agencies within their systems and another 2-3 dozen registered caregivers outside the system (the family was willing to pay out of their pocket). They found no one available for just the 3 days the family needed this month.

One of the city care managers tried to help by finding a hospital that would take the mother at least for a few days. No bed available at any of the several dozen hospitals in the town, no bed opening for the next 10 years for any kind of nursing care facilities.

The judge has no clue whatsoever about the reality of Japanese elder care system.

Hélios said...

Hello Ultraman and readers, please read this post :

Stunning Story from a Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Worker By OSHIDORI MAKO

Anonymous said...

Helios, with due respect, please...

Anonymous said...

Forgot to also point out that law has always been designed to protect the businesses and elites from the regular citizens (and to protect regular citizens from themselves).

That's why you have this kind of thing happening all the time. Makes the context much clearer, yes?

Anonymous said...

If I may add, we must not forget that law and justice are two different things.


Anonymous said...

@anon at 8:45 AM: I believe, Vyse is correct as far as US law is concerned. This lady would face criminal prosecution if negligent in keeping the husband under her care out of harm's way.

The true crime undoubtedly is, however, that people in need like she and her husband are left to fend for themselves. Can we really not forgo a drone or a tank or two and take care of our neediest?

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