One of the great things about Japanese supermarkets is their incredible selection of pre-made foods, with the tempura being many shoppers’ personal favorite. But while tempura is the highlight of many grocery runs, it didn’t put a smile on the face of a 36-year-old man who visited a branch of chain supermarket Summit in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward. While there, he slipped on a piece of kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) tempura that had been dropped on the floor in front of a register, causing him to fall and sustain injuries to his right knee.
Not satisfied with Summit’s offer of roughly 60,000 yen in compensation, the man decided to sue the company, and last December a Tokyo District Court ruled in his favor, ordering Summit to pay him roughly 580,000 yen. However, this wasn’t the end of the deep-fried dispute, as Summit appealed the decision, and on Wednesday the Tokyo High Court overturned the District Court’s ruling, dismissing the man’s claim for further compensation.
While the judge in the initial trial had deemed that Summit had been in violation of safe business operation ordinances, High Court Judge Yutaka Hirata pointed to a number of factors in his ruling that Summit had not been negligent, starting with the confirmation that the tempura had been dropped not by a Summit employee, but by another shopper. Citing its small size of approximately 13 centimeters in length, Hirata said it would not have been difficult to avoid, and also that it had not been on the ground for an amount of time inordinately long enough to constitute legal negligence.
With personal injury lawsuits far less common in Japan than in many other countries, online reactions to the High Court’s decision have been largely positive, with comments including:
“Happy to see they overturned it.”
“This was the right, and obvious, decision.”
“I’m glad common sense prevailed.”
“Everybody, keep an eye out for fallen tempura.”
Oddly enough, the reversal of the tempura ruling comes just one week after a verdict in an even larger lawsuit regarding a lettuce-related supermarket injury. In this case, a 60-something Tokyo man filed the lawsuit against a Kanagawa Prefecture grocery store he’d been shopping at in 2015. While there, he slipped and fell in the produce section, which he blamed on the floor being wet from water dripping off lettuce that had been sprayed to keep it crisp.
Seeking compensation for lingering injuries and loss of income, in this case a Tokyo District Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, ordering the store to pay him 21 million yen in damages. Judge Yukio Shinada (not the same judge who presided over the first tempura-slip trial, by the way) ruled that it was predictable that the water would drip from the lettuce onto the floor, and so the store, which had created the wet conditions, should have dried or otherwise taken further precautions in the areas where customers would be walking.
The Kanagawa store has not commented as to whether or not it plans to appeal the decision, but in any case, it’s probably a good idea to watch your step at the supermarket.
Source: Jiji via Livedoor News via Hachima Kiko, Twitter, NHK News Web via Otakomu
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