The family and employer of an epileptic driver who drove his minivan through a crowded intersection, killing seven pedestrians and then himself, have been ordered by the Kyoto District Court to pay 52 million in damages to the family of one victim.
The accident occurred at 1:10 p.m. on April 12, 2012, in Kyoto's Gion district. The court heard that Shingo Fujisaki, 30, who suffered bouts of epilepsy, lost control of his minivan. He rearended a taxi on a one-way street about 150 meters from an intersection, then went through a red traffic light, knocking over pedestrians. The minivan continued on for another 200 meters, hitting parked cars, another taxi and a cyclist, before smashing into an electric pole before stopping.
The area was packed with tourists and cherry blossom viewers.
Seven pedestrians -- two men and five women -- and Fujisaki, later died. It was later revealed that Fujisaki went into cardiac arrest inside the van.
In the first of a series of civil suits filed, the family of a 68-year-old woman who died in the accident filed a damages suit, claiming that Fujisaki's employer and family knew of his epileptic condition but let him drive anyway.
Fujisaki's employer, who admitted knowing about Fujisaki's epilepsy, had said that he looked OK during the morning meeting at the office before he left to make deliveries.
Fujisaki's sister said that he had suffered from epilepsy and sometimes blacked out in the past or suffered convulsions, usually at night, NHK reported. She said that the family had asked him not to drive, and that they feel responsible for not having helped him.
Meanwhile, doctors at the hospital where Fujisaki was being treated for epilepsy said that they had repeatedly urged him to stop driving.
People with epilepsy are often discriminated against in Japan and they often hide the problem, even when they get a driver's license. Japan bans them from driving unless medical authorities confirm they have not had attacks in the past two years.
In December 2011, a crane driver, who suffered from epilepsy, was sentenced to seven years in prison for causing the deaths of six children in an accident in Tochigi Prefecture in April 2011. In that case, the man had hid his epilepsy to get his mobile crane driving license.© Japan Today/AP