New Taipei court awards plasticizer victims NT$1.2 mil.
By Katherine Wei ,The China PostThe New Taipei District Court awarded NT$1,200,000 in compensation to over 500 victims affected by plasticizer-tainted additives yesterday.
October 18, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
The Consumers' Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the 568 victims in March, 2012, demanding that 37 industries, including main suppliers Yu Shen Co. (昱伸公司) and Ben Hur Co. (賓漢公司), accused of supplying tainted additives to clouding agents pay compensation of at least NT$7.8 billion. The sum was cut to NT$2.4 billion, but the final amount set by the court was deemed unsatisfactory by the foundation.
According to the presiding judge, the reason for the lessened compensation was the fact that the plasticizers are able to be expelled from the human body and therefore will not cause permanent damage to health.
The class action suit called for the suppliers to pay compensation for the original price the consumers had paid to purchase the tainted foodstuff, medical bills and additional living expenses. The purchase prices should be duly returned to the consumers, said the presiding judge, but the demands for medical bills and living expenses are not acceptable as the consumers had not supplied sufficient evidence to prove that they had suffered losses that called for the requested compensation.
The victims had also demanded punitive damages, which the court had also ruled unnecessary since many accused retailers had used the tainted additives unaware of their illegal contents.
Upon consulting the Department of Health's (DOH) handbook on food additives tainted with plasticizers, the judge pointed out that plasticizer DEHP — found in the products manufactured by the accused industries — will be discharged by the human body within 24 to 48 hours; plasticizer DINP will be discharged in 72 hours as well. The chemicals will not be harmful, concluded the court.
The Consumers' Foundation will be filing an appeal, according to the foundation's appointed lawyer Hsu Tse-yu (徐則鈺).
“The claim that the chemicals will be discharged from human bodies within three days is simply taken from studies and animal experiments made in other nations. The DOH should not be using these statistics on its website and handbook,” Hsu said.
Hsu stressed that the DOH is not helping the consumers with this piece of information since it had encouraged them to take the case to court in the first place, but the defendants were using the statistics as evidence of their innocence instead.