crime

Family, employer of dead epileptic driver ordered to pay damages

35 Comments

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

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

35 Comments
Login to comment

I think it's a very dangerous and ridiculous ruling. Assuming the doctors acted appropriately they are not to blame, and your family have no legal recourse over you. You can't order your son to stay at home, legally. If he was legal to drive, which I don't think this article clarifies, it was nobody's responsibility but his.

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

It's the right decision. The case also underscores Japan's lack of a social safety net. Even if your health poses a potential threat to others, you're still compelled to work, work, work, and stay quiet.

I'm reminded of this every winter when I see large numbers of infected people on crowded trains headed to crowded offices. But what do you expect in the absence of paid sick leave?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

What I don't understand is why his employer put him in a "delivery job" ? He KNEW about the epilepsy problem, couldn't he have given him a "desk job" ? (He wouldn't have killed so many people falling off his chair...)

21 ( +22 / -1 )

In my opinion the doctors who knew about his conditions have a legal obligation to report this. Same as when someone shows signs or symptoms of abuse, the hospital will have to report this to the authorities. Just telling him not to drive won't change anything. The family and employer are not to be held responsible. He got a valid license, so he can drive car.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Why just limit the the payment order to the driver's family and employer? Following the court's logic, the mans friends, neighbors, and doctors should also pay up. But why limit it there? Perhaps society is to blame for these people not doing their "duty" and reporting their friend's medical condition, so then we all should pay.

Apparently personal responsibility isn't limited only to the individual who commits a wrong. This judgment is quite similar to the old Japanese wartime practice of killing everyone in a village where a Japanese person died, or killing every person between the point an escaped POW was found, and the place he escaped from.

Next we should start imprisoning the parents and siblngs of convicted criminals, after all, shouldn't these people have done something to prevent the criminal from becoming bad?

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

The employer knew his condition and assigned him to drive. Tough, but they have some responsibility.

Patric, you say the doctors "have a legal obligation to report" his condition. I don't think they do, at present. Perhaps they should.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@jefflee

that is absolutely absurd. you know nothing about that man's situation, but you want to lay blame for this accident on the govt? if he really HAD to work to support himself, then there are plenty of jobs that don't require you to drive a car. a "lack of a social safety net" did not cause this horrible accident; the idiot and his employer are to blame.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I have no problem with the employer being ordered to pay damages but going after the family seems a bit overkill.

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. Is his employer also a doctor who specializes in epilepsy? Where does his logic of: "oh he looks OK to drive" come from? I'm no doctor myself, but I highly doubt that you can tell whether or not an epileptic is going to have an episode in the following hours based on how they look in the morning.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

While I can see the employer being liable, I don't see why the family has to pay as well. The employer knew he had epilepsy but let him drive. That's their bad. But family? All the family can say is "don't drive". What else could the family have done to prevent this from happening? Keep an eye on him 24/7 to ensure he doesn't drive?

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Oops, quote didn't work out as planned. Sorry. JT really needs an edit button.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The fact his employer also happened to be his family is probably not relevant to the ruling and mentioning it in the headline causes confusion. It's common for employers to be held responsible for major accidents caused by their staff in the line of duty, but blood relation alone wouldn't cause anyone to be held accountable.

Also I find it odd that the hospital isn't allowed or required to report his condition to the police, just as you're obliged to keep someone from drunk driving.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I respect the decision of the Kyoto District Court. It was "an accident waiting to happen".

0 ( +2 / -2 )

To be fair, it is his company's responsibility he was driving because he was making deliveries for his job. They knew about his epilepsy and gave him a job including driving.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@Amidalism,

They do it is called 'PREVIEW'.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's a tricky one for the family, they must feel terrible about the other deaths on top of losing a son, horrible. It reminds me of a situation back in the UK years ago, where my ex girlfriends father was going through a nervous breakdown. He was a taxi driver, he started drinking very heavily on top of his anti-depressants and behaving very very erratically. Her family members asked him to stop driving, he didn't stop so they notified the police. They didn't want him to get busted, lose his job, or at the very worst kill people, so it was all done in a way where he was never charged with anything. The police had his license suspended and arranged for him to go into care and get the help and support he needed. The last I heard he had recovered fully. The Kyoto accident was avoidable, we don't know the details but unfortunately it seems like a lack of communication between the family, doctors and employer.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Great decision. A company that KNOWINGLY (<-keyword) employes a person a debilitating condition that can potentially effect the way he/she drives to drive professionally is definitely negligent. This is a no brainer.

As for they family, they also knew of his condition, and yet did nothing about about it. Feeling guilty afterwards isn't going to bring these people back. They should should have reported the company and this man to the authorities, and told them that this company is knowingly employing a relative with a condition that could potentially cause him to have a serious accident. At the very least, they should have tried to get his license revoked, unless he agree no to drive professionally.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Can understand how a company having liability would work.

How does this family responsibility thing work? Seems archaic to me. What if the wife divorces and takes a new name, is she absolved? How are a the payment obligations divided? Does the person how asked him not to drive the most have to pay less? Can they "dissolve" the family? Where does "family" end? If someone marries into the family do they have to pay? Is the obligation to pay inherited by children and grand-children, down the generations Old Testament-style?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Bad ruling. I hope some of the parties refuse to pay. Why was it only awarded to one victim's family? Are other lawsuits pending? Anyway, that 68 year old woman was very likely not the family breadwinner. Suing for a pile of money is not going to bring mom/grandma back. If all the victims sue and win like this, the family and company will both soon be bankrupt. For the family of Fujisaki, this means the loss of their son might be followed by that of their home and life savings.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

It's not right that the family are held responsible for the actions of a 30 year old. If he had some kind of mental disability maybe, but epilepsy doesn't usually affect ability to make rational decisions (discounting during an attack of course)

The employer on the other hand not only knew of his condition, but gave him a van to drive. This is at the very least professional negligence.

In my opinion the doctors who knew about his conditions have a legal obligation to report this.

Sorry but blaming doctors isn't the way to go. We all have our own responsibilities, in this case the driver and employer are solely to blame. The driver didn't NEED to get a driving job, the employer didn't NEED him to drive, there are many fit and able people available.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

There should be no argument here. Assuming the company followed the correct regulations and checked he had a valid driving licence they can not be blamed. I presume he hadn't had a seizure within the prescibed 2 year legal limit either so the doctors couldn't stop him in any way apart from persuasion, which they tried. If they want to go after anybody they should go after the lawmakers who make the rules, not the people who abide by them. Driving with epilepsy is not a crime, however much it might be inadvisable.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The article leaves a bit much "up in the air" as regards laying blame. While I do think that the company shouldn't have put him into a driving position, if he had a valid licence then they -presumably - had no reason not to; the Government says it is OK.

That said, do we know if this man lied for his licence? I think that may be the key point here.

In any case, it is still a tragedy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good call on the employer's liability, but bad call on punishing the family members.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I was their , with my son and the scene was like something out a die hard movie, it was an absolute mess, my first thought was it was a YAK bank robbery gone wrong with a shoot out with the cops, I don't think that any one should be driving if you have epilepsy this is a result of driving when you should not, as for the compo claim, yes the dead family need something, but that amount? its a bit over the top, was the 52 million £,$ or yen? if someone has epilepsy it should be monitored and may be after a period of time let someone drive if they have not had a fit for XXXX amount of time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Very aggressive words against epilepsy.

I do not know the severity of this case but I have got two friends with epilepsy and they have almost a normal life and are allowed to drive in my home country in Europe.

But of course this requires very tight medical treatment, controlled and healthy life style and most important: transparency and flexibility from family, acquaintance and employer. According to them, with moderate epilepsy, the patient will feel early enough the preliminary symptoms of a crisis to stop immediately any dangerous activities for themselves or others.

None of my friends have ever had any accidents, while still having a few crisis a year.

Just sharing an experience, if someone with medical expertise could add something it would be appreciated.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Could we please back up a second? It says he suffered from epilepsy. A lot of people suffer from epilepsy and in the vast majority of cases it is controlled with medication. The article makes no statement about when his last attack was or if the epilepsy was under control.

Then we have this car accident. Is there any connection between the car accident and the epilepsy? Well, we know he had a heart attack, but that isn't uncommon. What we don't know is if the erratic driving was caused by the epilepsy or "OMG!! I'm having a heart attack".

I'm sorry, but there's no evidence in this article that the epilepsy was in any way responsible for the accident. In essence this ruling is saying that no epileptic person (even if their condition is controlled and they've had no attacks in years) can drive. That is utterly ridiculous.

The cause of death was a heart-attack. The cause of the accident was entirely likely the heart-attack too. Are people seriously arguing that anyone with heart condition (a good 10% of the population) should be banned from driving? Because that's essentially what this ruling is doing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The cause of death was a heart-attack.

Actually, the article says the driver Fujisaki went into cardiac arrest. As I am sure you know, this just means his heart stopped. While it is possible that was a result of a heart attack, the article does not make this clear.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

slumdogFeb. 07, 2014 - 08:50AM JST Actually, the article says the driver Fujisaki went into cardiac arrest. As I am sure you know, this just means his heart stopped. While it is possible that was a result of a heart attack, the article does not make this clear.

Fair enough comment, but surely you're not having a go at me for using the layman's term on a news site where most of the readers won't be familiar with a long list of possible medical conditions that could have caused the cardiac arrest? For those not in the know, cardiac arrest simply means that the heart stopped beating, either temporarily or permanently. The term I used, heart attack, but more correctly referred to as a coronary thrombosis or myocardial infarction, means that there was a blood clot in the heart or surrounding tissue that caused the muscles of the heart to be starved of oxygen and stop working. I fully understand why slumdog objected to the term, as it prejudges the cause, but in my defense this is a news site where laypeople read and I wanted to make my post easy to read.

My point was, quite simply, that there are more than two dozen things that could have caused the cardiac arrest. Without an autopsy it would be impossible to pin-point epilepsy as the cause of the cardiac arrest, and even then it would be a diagnosis by exclusion (they would have to eliminate all of the other possibilities, leaving them with some unknown "other" cause of death), since an epileptic seizure interfering with heart function would leave no visible signs.

And this is my objection to this judgment. The judgement doesn't appear to be supported by medical facts. The judge seems to have concluded that because the driver suffered from epilepsy this was the cause of the cardiac arrest, and as such it was his fault. ... which seems a HUGE leap from where I'm standing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No, I wasn't having a go. I was just pointing out that the article was just basically saying the guys heart had stopped and that while possible that the cause of death is not conclusive based on what is in the article.

My problem with this judgement is that:

1) As you point out, we really do not know what caused the accident. We especially do not know that it was the epilepsy.

2) Even if it was the epilepsy, why is the family being made to pay?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think you have to look at this as if he was drunk. Are the parents responsible for allowing him to drive in a state that is potentially lethal? I would say, "yes" if they had the means and opportunity to stop him. I don't think that there is any doubt that the employer is at the very least negligent.

That said, I can understand how his family might have looked at it in a different way. They didn't want to hold him back or discriminate against him, but unfortunately, they have to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think you have to look at this as if he was drunk.

I disagree. Driving while under the influence is illegal full stop. Epilepsy is not.

The family are not medical professionals. If doctors had certified that this man should not be driving, and not just suggested he not drive, then the employer would be directly responsible as they knew about the condition and let him drive because he happened to look okay that morning.

but surely you're not having a go at me for using the layman's term

Actually, I was just correcting you. You suggested that he had a heart attack and that was the cause of death and the cause of the accident. As you know, it does not say that in the article. It is not a matter of layman's terms. A heart attack and cardiac arrest at two different things. That is all I was pointing out. A heart attack can cause a person's heart to stop (cardiac arrest) but so can many other things, including a severe attack of epilepsy. A severe enough hit to the body during an accident could as well. In other words, all we know is that the man's heart stopped beating and when he was found in the car, his heart was not beating. We do not know why. The judges in this case seem to be suggesting (guessing) that it was the epilepsy.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

slumdogFeb. 08, 2014 - 01:06PM JST The family are not medical professionals. If doctors had certified that this man should not be driving, and not just suggested he not drive, then the employer would be directly responsible as they knew about the condition and let him drive because he happened to look okay that morning.

Oh, I can answer this one. This isn't the line of logic the judge is using. In Japan your debts pass on to your family on your death, including ones incurred after your death. This is why judges can rule that families have to pay compensation to JR if someone jumps in front of a train. Officially the judge is ruling against the dead guy for their actions, but the debt then passes onto the family. The same logic applies here. The driver knew that he was epileptic, had visited doctors and experienced attacks, and could be considered to understand the consequences of driving with this condition, therefore ( if it was an epileptic attack that cause the accident) he would be responsible, and the debt would pass onto his family, who were also his employers (if I remember the original article from some months back correctly).

We do not know why. The judges in this case seem to be suggesting (guessing) that it was the epilepsy.

Okay, so we agree and the disagreement was just over terminology. I really don't see how the judge could make this judgement though, the car accident could easily have obscured the reason for the cardiac arrest, and it would be almost impossible (in fact I think entirely impossible) to prove that epilepsy was the cause of the cardiac arrest. ... and this is the problem with Japan's legal system, "guilty until proven innocent". The prosecutor would just have to charge the dead guy with causing an accident because of a known epileptic condition, and then the family would have to PROVE the accident wasn't caused by epilepsy... which might be possible if an autopsy was done quickly and there was clear evidence of damage to the heart before death, but might also well be impossible. Under the "innocent until proven guilty system" the prosecutor would have to prove that the accident was caused by epilepsy.

... which brings up the ridiculous "Arrest that man, he stole my cat" example - where the accuser doesn't own a cat, but the accused has to prove the non-existence of a non-existent cat, while the accuser has to do... nothing, the accusation satisfies his burden in the case, and can refuse entry to his apartment to search for cat hair, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In Japan your debts pass on to your family on your death, including ones incurred after your death.

Yes, this is true for debts. This was not a straight debt. However, and I am only assuming here, insurance usually handles payment to victims of accidents. There must have been payouts for this victim's family and the other victims. If not, why not? To be honest, I have no idea because I know next to nothing about this case. But, I have not heard of many cases where the family of a criminal pays the victims in place of the criminal in case of death.

Okay, so we agree and the disagreement was just over terminology.

Absolutely. I don't get the judge's ruling. Unless this is one of those extremely unusual cases where there was an autopsy (I highly doubt it), then how can they know for certain the reason for the accident?

However, based solely on the hints in the article, the author seems to be suggesting this man was hiding his epilepsy and driving without a doctor's permission to get a license. If so, even if it was not the epilepsy that caused the accident, it could be argued that he should not have been driving anyway and so was driving illegally.

Eh, who knows. Really strange and sad case all around.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Oh, I can answer this one. This isn't the line of logic the judge is using. In Japan your debts pass on to your family on your death, including ones incurred after your death. This is why judges can rule that families have to pay compensation to JR if someone jumps in front of a train. Officially the judge is ruling against the dead guy for their actions, but the debt then passes onto the family.

Compensation is only paid from the dead person's estate. The family doesn't have to cover anything beyond that. However, it does mean that they don't get money that they may have otherwise received.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I believe it depends on the kind of debt. It is my understanding that if the deceased borrowed money for a car, for example. The immediate family would be responsible for paying that debt back whether the deceased left behind an estate or not.

52 million is a large chunk of change. I don't see how the victim's family is going to see very much of that money.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wish I could have assisted this criminal selfish bastard to kill himself before he caused so much pain and suffering to innocent victims in Kyoto. May this evil bastard burn in hell for all of eternity!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites