U.S. Navy to Sue Japan's Largest Electric Power Company in California Court
November 3, 2014
In March of 2011, the record earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima plant, the worst civilian atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. About 160,000 people were forced to evacuate because of radiation fallout. During relief efforts, U.S. Navy personnel were exposed to radiation from the plant.
Navy personnel filed a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Japan's largest power utility company, claiming that TEPCO was negligent in the design and operation of the Fukushima Plant. They are seeking to create a fund exceeding $1 billion for health and medical expenses incurred, in addition to unspecified damages.
The sailors and their families claimed the company known as Tepco, Japan's biggest power utility, was negligent in the design and operation of the Fukushima plant, according to their amended complaint filed in February. They're seeking to create a fund exceeding $1 billion to monitor their health and pay for medical expenses, on top of unspecified damages. TEPCO counters that the U.S. military had contributed to the plaintiffs' harm, thereby limiting the utility's liability.
A San Diego District Court Judge ruled that the exposed personnel can now sue the power station's operator in California. TEPCO filed a motion to dismiss the class-action due to jurisdictional issues and argued for teh case to be heard in Japan. Judge Janis L. Sammartino denied the motion.
In the October 28, 2014 opinion, the judge stated that "[a]lthough Japan is an adequate alternative forum, the balance of the private and public interest factors suggest that it would be more convenient for the parties to litigate in a U.S. court."
The case is Lindsay R. Cooper v Tokyo Electric Power Company Inc., 12-cv-3032. U.S. District Court, Southern District of California.