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Mother, employer of epileptic crane driver ordered to pay compensation over fatal accident

65 Comments

The mother of an epileptic crane driver who caused the deaths of six children in an accident in Tochigi Prefecture in April 2011 has been ordered by the Utsunomiya District Court to pay compensation to the victims' families.

The court on Wednesday also ordered the driver, Masato Shibata, 28, and his employer at the time -- who was aware of Shibata's epilepsy -- to pay damages, Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday. In total, the three have been ordered to pay 125 million yen in damages.

Shibata was sentenced to seven years in prison. The court said that he had been a long-term sufferer of epilepsy and had succumbed to a fit moments before the accident took place. The six elementary school students were killed on April 18, 2011, when they were run over by a mobile crane while walking to school in Kanuma, Tochigi Prefecture.

During the trial, Shibata admitted hiding his epilepsy to get his mobile crane driving license, and that he had caused accidents due to epilepsy before.

In their suit, parents of the victims said that Shibata's mother should have talked him out of applying for a job driving cranes and that his employer was culpable for allowing an epileptic person to drive a crane, Sankei reported.

The high-profile case was one of a number of similar accidents which has led the National Police Agency to introduce new penalties for drivers who fail to declare when updating their driver's licenses preexisting conditions, such as epilepsy, that could compromise road safety.

A panel of experts commissioned to study the issue found that in the last five years, 69% of drivers whose epilepsy caused a traffic accident, failed to declare their condition when renewing their driver's licenses.

On April 12 last year, a minivan crashed into pedestrians on a crowded street in Kyoto's popular Gion tourist district, killing two men and five women. Eleven others were injured in the incident. The 30-year-old driver, who apparently suffered an epileptic attack while driving, also died.

The NPA panel has recommended introducing penalties for failing to declare, when applying for or renewing a driver's license, preexisting conditions that could pose a road traffic hazard. The panel also suggested a system whereby doctors could, at their own discretion, report patients whose conditions they believe could hamper their ability to safely operate a vehicle.

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65 Comments
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Well I'll be! They actually made a decision and held someone accountable for something instead of giving it the ole' "Shou ga nai"!

-10 ( +10 / -20 )

The mother??? That is moronic!!! He is 28 years old!!! No wonder people choose not to have kids here! He is an adult!!! His employer, I understand, not his mother.

56 ( +61 / -5 )

Understandable the employers should be held to account but the logic to find the mother at fault escapes me.

45 ( +48 / -4 )

At first I was dumfounded by this, but after thinking about it, if she knew that he was hiding his condition to get the job AND that he'd caused accidents because of it before, she should have reported it. It'd be even more understandable if there were evidence that she actively supported his actions, but the article doesn't mention that.

Ratting out your son must be hard to do, but if she knew and stayed silent, that makes her an accessory.

4 ( +17 / -13 )

Leave Mum alone. This guy is surely old enought to be responsible for himself. Is it that he is penniless and so onmly way to get money is go after Boss and Mum?

10 ( +14 / -4 )

Seven years is too light in my opinion. That's only a little more than 1 year per child killed. The employer should be jailed as well instead of just being fined.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

A mother is a mother ! She would always support her child! Was she expert? Or doctor so she knew the exact consequences?

I also find it hard to believe they charged her. Well if it is only for the money I don't know...

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Leave mom alone. The guy is an adult. If they want to go after the parents of minors though, I certainly will support that!

4 ( +11 / -7 )

I think it is correct to hold mother accountable too, if they can prove that she knew he lied about this deception. An epileptic crane truck driver is not a case where family loyalty has any role. Imagine you take a plane and the mother of the pilot knows he has a lethal condition. She definitely should be held accountable.

-6 ( +7 / -13 )

Penalizing the mum seems quite fitting in Japan cos they never really grow up anyway. She knew his condition and his job, as did his employer. The driver should have faced murder charges and the boss and mum charged as accessories. No amount of compensation or jail time could equal the grief felt by the parents of these little kids.

-13 ( +1 / -14 )

Just unreal blaming the mother. Is this a late april fools?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

This country's legal system is full of morons. The driver and employer are of course culpable; to blame and punish the mother who now sees her already disabled son inside for 7 years is cruel and unusual. I despair for Japan so often... articles like this make me glad my Japanese son is being raised in NZ. Why would we bother to return?

11 ( +13 / -3 )

Jayman:

her son is not "disabled". He is perfectly able to do all sorts of jobs safely. Driving a 20 ton vehicle through traffic is not one of those. Everybody who enabled this shares responsibility.

-3 ( +8 / -10 )

They went for the mother as an easy target, it's despicable ..... why not the employer ? Oh yeah, that's right, we all know how well people within the construction / heavy plant industry are connected to people who run this country.

-7 ( +2 / -9 )

Absolutely absurd to hold the mother accountable and have her pay!

8 ( +10 / -2 )

The employer has also been ordered to pay damages.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mother of epileptic crane driver ordered to pay compensation over fatal accident

Seriously...? His Mother...? Was She Driving the crane or in the cab with him at the time of the Accident...? He was well over the legal Age to be considered an adult at the time of the Accident...? Correct..?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

This is ridiculous. Unless his mother somehow forced him to hide his condition to get this job I don't see any liability on her part. Who knows what he told his mother about his employment situation. She might have been told that his employers were okay with his condition. Cut the apron strings already and let adults accept responsibility for their own actions. When I was 28 there wasn't much my parents could tell me as to how to lead my life and whatever consequences came my way was all on me.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Why should the employer be held accountable if this guy lied and said he was fine? The only person here who is responsible for this happening is the driver. Had this guy been 17, I'd agree with charging the mom. Had the company known, I would agree with charging them but as it stands, this guy and this guy alone should be charged.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

My neighbor who suffers from depression and even attempted suicide three summers ago drives under the influence of anti depressants..in fact, one time she bumped one of our neighbors wall made of concrete..thank god nothing happened to her..my question..why is this allowed and not strickly impose as to not to drive in many circumstances?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I thought that the government was going to make some sort of effort to end bullying; the mother is getting bullied.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Why should the employer be held accountable if this guy lied and said he was fine?

Because the company knew he was not fine. Did you read the story?

The court on Wednesday also ordered the driver, Masato Shibata, 28, and his employer at the time—who was aware of Shibata’s epilepsy—to pay damages

6 ( +7 / -1 )

My question is when did he get the license?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

This incident is famous in Japan in that the mother of the driver actively supported his work although she knows her son’s condition. It doesn’t mention in this article but she even sent his son to a driving school and covered the cost of a car, hiding that her son has this disease. I think she should be held accountable for this incident even though her son is not a minor, as she knows the importance of life from being someone’s mother.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Does the driver still live at home with his mother?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

OK, all you nay-sayers about the mother being penalized, it is the same circumstance as if you were in a car with a person you knew was driving drunk. You share the responsibility! She knew her son was sick and that he was not fit to drive a car, better less a crane truck, yet she did nothing about it, so she should share the responsibility. That is the way the law works in Japan.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

Why stop at the mother? Go after his brother, his girlfriend, his father, his grandmother, all his neighbours, his friends and everyone who works with him, all his friends on Facebook for that matter ... Oh and every health worker at every hospital he's ever visited. Yeah, great logic there! What a moronic law. Of course his employer has a responsibility to check he's fit to operate any kind of heavy machinery. But he's an adult, FFS! That makes him legally responsible for his actions. And the man himself should be heavily penalised, because his actions have caused really terrible consequences for so many people. But anyone else? Gimme a break.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

You share the responsibility!

So if you see a couple of schoolkids riding bicycles on the wrong side of the road but say nothing, and, three minutes later, they cause an oncoming car to swerve into a queue of people waiting for a bus, killing three of them, you'd agree that you're partly responsible for those deaths?

It's a bit nonsensical, no?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I agree with most that the mother should have nothing to do with this. Whether or not she knew (or even if she supported) her son's decision is (and should be) irrelevant because her son is an competent adult who should be able to make his own decisions. Arguing that the mother should be charged because she should have talked her son out of it is ridiculous. There will be no end to the list of people who can be charged if you follow this line of argument. For example, why stop at the mother; why not charge the son's friends, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents or anybody else who knew of his condition but didn't say or do anything? Why even stop there? Why not even charge his highschool (or any of his other) teachers for not teaching him to be more honest, a little smarter than that, and to be able make better decisions. As you can see, the list can become endless by following that line of argument. It is absolutely ridiculous and a joke in my opinion. It is very scary and disturbing if you ask me.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

JpnCdn:

You might find the law ridiculous, but please note that the same applies in Japan for drunk drunk driving. You are in the car with the drunk driver, you served him in the bar and let him drive, you drunk with him and let him drive.... you all share responsibility. and the law will come after you.

And afaik, an epileptic behind the wheel of a massive crane truck is a heck of a lot more dangerous than the average drunk.

Just sayin.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I'll just file this one in my WTF file.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

OK, all you nay-sayers about the mother being penalized, it is the same circumstance as if you were in a car with a person you knew was driving drunk. You share the responsibility! She knew her son was sick and that he was not fit to drive a car, better less a crane truck, yet she did nothing about it, so she should share the responsibility. That is the way the law works in Japan.

The circumstances are not exactly the same. The key difference is that your drunk driver is no longer competent and has temporary compromised judgement (eventhough the drunk driver had the judgement and competency to foresee such consequences before getting drunk; but that is another issue that is unrelated to this topic, so I won't go anymore into that)... unlike the son whose judgement is not compromised and retains his competency to make decisions (being epileptic does not compromise decision-making judgement and competency).

Treating the 2 situations the same would only show just how flawed Japan Law is. Therefore, I don't think it would be wise for judges (or anyone for that matter) to use this analogy.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I can completely understand the company having to shell out for damages, but not sure about the mother. If it was sheer apathy as to her ADULT son's condition, then maybe a LITTLE, but is it proven that she knew about the job and DIDN'T try to talk her son out of it?

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

WilliB: "OK, all you nay-sayers about the mother being penalized, it is the same circumstance as if you were in a car with a person you knew was driving drunk. You share the responsibility!"

She wasn't in the car while her son was driving drunk, was she? The comparison is not even remotely similar. I'm not saying she's a saint, and in fact know nothing about her or what she did or didn't feel and/or do about her son's affliction and the job, but again unless she was completely apathetic or didn't encourage him to take the job, I don't see how it's her responsibility.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I'm all for holding women responsible for their crimes but this is WRONG!! That's a GROWN man, epileptic or not. It appears to me that everything in Japan is money making opportunity.

@smithinjapan I respect your opinion and the analogy with drunk drivers is a decent attempt to show she's culpable BUT it's simply NOT the same. If you agree with this it may come back someday to bite you.

You see the real winner is the INSURANCE company that has found a way to duck out of paying. If they don't have to pay then the blame is shifted to the mother who DEFINITELY doesn't have 125 million. So the families who are hoping for compensation won't see a dime of it. They actually lose by being allowing themselves to be distracted from the REAL money bags.

Now, of course, I can't be sure if this is going to play out as I described it but going after dear old mom is NOT going to get you paid. If the families REALLY wanted this then they are just vindictive as ever. Sounds like Ancient Japan when they saw fit to wipe out a families entire line.

Obviously the judge thinks this is okay.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@mlg stop using a japanese phrase that every foreigner and their mother knows to make it seem like you understand anything about the japanese mindset. If all you care about is that they hold someone accountable instead of the RIGHT PERSON accountable, then shou ga nai- there's no point talking to you.

Why would it be the mother's responsibility to determine what jobs her 28 year old son is physically capable of or not? Do you really think the son told her mother that he lied to get his license?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I understand the employer but why the mother?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I dont get it... why the mother? Why stop there.... how about Doctors? Nurses? Teachers? Friends? Coaches? Neighbors? If the mother has to pay so does everyone.

The employee should pay EVERYTHING because he was driving as a company employee and not anyone else, it was a company crane and nothing to do with personal, it is the companies fault for allowing this to happen.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

This is insane... the driver was an adult, what he does is no longer the responsibility of his parents, and hasn't been for quite a long time. So she didn't talk him out of applying for the job as a crane driver... so what? It isn't her job to do that. He's a big enough man to work that out for himself, and the fact that he went ahead with it is entirely his fault. As far as the employer goes, yes they should be held accountable as they knew he was suffering from the condition.

For pity's sake leave the woman alone.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

WilliB: You might find the law ridiculous, but please note that the same applies in Japan for drunk drunk driving. You are in the car with the drunk driver, you served him in the bar and let him drive, you drunk with him and let him drive.... you all share responsibility. and the law will come after you.

The circumstances are not exactly the same. The key difference is that your drunk driver is no longer competent and has temporary compromised judgement (eventhough the drunk driver had the judgement and competency to foresee such consequences before getting drunk; but that is another issue that is unrelated to this topic, so I won't go anymore into that)... unlike the son whose judgement is not compromised and retains his competency to make decisions (being epileptic does not compromise decision-making judgement and competency).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

To add some detail that's missing from this report, the following comes from the Japan Times:

"The families argued the mother shared blame because she did not stop him from driving on the day of the accident even though she knew he hadn’t taken his epilepsy medication the night before."

He was a ticking time bomb. She knew it and he knew it.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

alimel1969:

This is ridiculous. Unless his mother somehow forced him to hide his condition to get this job I don't see any liability on her part. Who knows what he told his mother about his employment situation.

Not you. But as this has involved a police investigation, a criminal trial, and now a lawsuit, the police, the prosecutors, and the courts might.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I fail to understand! Mother? Really?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

People you can't say the man murdered the children, he did not intend or plan to kill them. His condition unfortunately caused their death, of course he should serve his time for knowing his condition could affect his ability to his job safely. I agree with most people here, I truly don't understand why the mother has to pay compensation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Apparently she knew he hadn't medicated himself. Still, she can't force him and she was probably afraid he would lose his job over it. Unfortunately, people lost their lives instead.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Confusing. Was it an accident or negligent homicide? A criminal case, civil case, or both? Does a mother have to sign for her son to get a driver's license in Japan? Not sure why they found the mother legally accountable. Surely in Japan they have driving schools. Perhaps the driving school could have been held fined. Why go after the mother? It's like punishing her for her son having epilepsy.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

125M yen is nothing for six young lives. They (especially the company for sheer negligence) should be ordered to pay 10 times that much for each child and this fool should have gotten life in prison. The person who hired the this crane driver, since he knowingly hired a person with this medical condition, should be the one who gets seven years in jail.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If people with a handicap would not be so ostracized and proper medical treatment given you can have almost a normal life with epilepsy.

Maybe not crane or school bus driver but most of the job are possible.

IMHO the Japanese society has at least 50% responsibility of this tragedy.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What is this, Nazi Germany? So is every friend of this guy who knew he was applying for a job also going to be paying fines? Am I supposed to go around informing on every friend I have who I think might cause an accident? Sorry, I think that's going too far -- so leave mom alone on this one. Throw the book at the employer and levy huge fines to set an example to other employers. And of course huge fines and jail and a criminal record for Mr. Epilepsy. But leave mom out of this one.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Don't they apportion fault here? The mother may have known far more about the dangers involved ... like his previous accidents caused by his fits. If she actively supported him in continuing to work despite those incidents and supported him in his concealment of his condition ... which also might be a outcrop of "shou ga nai" ... then she has some complicity in what happened but I don't think hers should be considered to be a major portion of fault. I don't know how it works but maybe she is, for example, 10% responsible?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Japan has too long put up with the lobby that pushes for those who are epileptic to be allowed to drive. Just as one who has epilepsy would not be recommended to be a race car driver or astronaut, so would one not be encouraged to get behind the wheel of an automobile. The government does not encourage drivers who are impaired by alcohol to drive and so should not allow those impaired by this particular condition to drive either.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

. the mother of a 28 year old is not someone who should be held responsible- She cannot be reasonablly expected even in Japan to 100% stop someone from doing something they feel obligated to do.

he is going to jail and rightfully so- but now she is being made to pay- not really the correct thing to do. it was really the employer who knew of the illness and the employee who was at fault.

People who are epileptic can drive, if they are under control with medication for at least a year. there are guidleines. that can be put in place and be enforced

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It appears the court viewed the mother as an adult who knew about a dangerous condition and kept silent.

It doesn't feel right to me but I can see a line of reasoning that holds her responsible too.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

What could the mother do? The employer knew of his condition? What did she hide? Nothing, Mother shouldn't be involved other then attending his trial. ("The court on Wednesday also ordered the driver, Masato Shibata, 28, and his employer at the time—who was aware of Shibata’s epilepsy—to pay damages") Even has had other accidents due to his illness. I feel for the victims parents, but to blame the mother? Do they know for sure that she did or did not try to convince him? Sometimes anger and other emotions effect their judgement.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why mother has to pay compensation for her son crimes?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It is amazing that those who claim the gvernment should be held responsible for nearly everything would some how want the mother not be held liable.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

How did he get a license? No physical? Shouldn't the perfectural government and NPA be held partially responsible also? To blame the mother is just moronic. Japanese judges must be morons.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I can see two reason why the mother is being financially responsible:

The crane driver is not financially able to pay for damages, so they go to the nearest family member.. may not sound too logical since the crane driver is no longer a minor.

He probably still lived his mother, hence she was aware of his condition and did not discourage or stop him from driving a crane. Its probably goes along the same lines as not stopping a drunk person from driving.

I DO agree that the company SHOULD be held financially responsible. The should have required detailed medical records before hiring him. HELL, I have a desk job and go no where near heavy equipment, and yet my employer required detailed medical records from me...its standard procedure...I would think. Again 125M JPY? really? That works out to be 250K USD per death. That's how much human life is worth according to the Japanese justice system. If I were a parent of one of these kids, I would have taken this ruling as a slap in a face. No justice was served here. And the lack of common sense expressed by the perpetrator tells me that hell probably try to get another crane job when he is released in 8 years.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

If this is going to be used as a legal precedent, then a lot of mothers out there better start saving - hard!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Mike Crichtley:

" What is this, Nazi Germany? So is every friend of this guy who knew he was applying for a job also going to be paying fines? "

Err... yes. If you know a crime is going to be committed (murder, in this case), and you do nothing to report it, are you not complicit in the crime? I am not a lawyer, but I thought other societies have the same view.

And yes, an epileptic behind the wheel of a crane truck is going to end in murder. I really don´t get why so many here take such a light view of a 20-ton vehicle running over scores of people. No big deal... really??

0 ( +1 / -1 )

That's a whole lot of money for a mother to pay. I wonder how well off she is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

in the usa, it depends on what type of epilepsy you have and how severe it is. my aunt has grand mal seizures and she is unable to drive because of it. you need a doctor's medical release stating you are ok to drive. most epileptics have a "tell" a warning sign right before they have a seizure. this man should not have been allowed to operate heavy machinery. they should have sentenced him to 8 years per child. the employer should be made to pay the entire compensation. even if the mother knew of her son not taking his medicine prior to the accident, it is still not her responsibility. he is grown. she can't force a grown man to do ANYTHING! i feel for the parents of the dead kids, but going after the mother is just wrong. they should go after the employer, insurance company, and the department of motor vehicles for licensing him. in the usa you need to pass a medical evaluation to get any type of commercial driver's license and they go back 3 years in additional to a drug test. japan might want to update their own safety laws.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

She knew full well about his conditon and encouraged him to get this license...so yes she is responsible in a way.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And we say people in this country go nuts for no apparent reason. Well here is one reason this poor woman may be headed in that direction. This is absolutely impossible to believe, specifically the amount to be paid by her to the plaintiffs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Only in Japan do they try and force someone else to pay for another's mistakes. Just like the pension system where the goverment expects aging parents to pay pension payments for their grown up children who may be out of work etc.

Every grown up person should be responsible for their own deeds. It is immoral to make someone else pay who is not directly involved or just happens to be related. Why don't we send criminal's mothers to jail as well ? what next ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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