Friday, September 19, 2008

"Court orders school to pay damages to lightning strike victim

"The Takamatsu High Court has ordered a high school and athletics association to pay about 307 million yen in damages to a 28-year-old man who was struck by lightning during a school soccer match in 1996, leaving him severely disabled.

"The man, Mitsutoshi Kitamura, and his family had sought about 646 million yen in damages from Tosa Senior High School and the Takatsuki city athletics association over the incident, which occurred when Kitamura was a student at the school.

"In handing down the ruling on Wednesday, which came after the Supreme Court sent the case back to the high court, Presiding Judge Masahira Yanobu said the accused parties could have avoided the accident.

""They neglected their duty to take care to predict an accident, and are at fault for exposing the victim to the accident without taking evasive measures," the judge said.

"The ruling was the first to accept a school's responsibility for an accident involving lightning, and is likely to affect schools significantly in their measures to ensure safety.

"According to the ruling, the accident occurred on Aug. 13, 1996, during a soccer tournament in Takatsuki in which 62 teams from across the country were taking part. The lightning struck during a match at about 4:35 p.m., and left Kitamura with severe disabilities affecting his eyes and limbs. After the accident he was unable to speak normally.

"Originally the high court dismissed the claims, but the Supreme Court decided that the lightning strike could have been foreseen, and sent the case back to the high court.

"There were 50 concrete pillars around the soccer field, and the plaintiffs claimed that the accident could have been prevented if the players had been ordered to crouch down at a distance of 2 to 4 meters away from the pillars. The school argued that there was no time to evacuate the students, but the high court dismissed the claim and said that the accident could have been avoided if the starting time of the matches had been delayed after having the players take shelter.

"School officials said they would take the ruling seriously.

""We will be careful about safety measures to make sure that this kind of unfortunate situation never occurs again," the school's headmaster said."

By Mainichi Shimbun (9/18/2008), Link to article (last visited 9/19/2008)

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