The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s decision to allow U.S. sailors to pursue their $1 billion lawsuit against Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). The litigation involves radiation injuries the sailors suffered during their response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. TEPCO had sought to dismiss the suit claims that U.S. courts lack jurisdiction.
TEPCO had also argued that federal courts lack jurisdiction over the case because of the international comity doctrine, which allows a court to dismiss a case when another country has a strong interest in handling the claims and can adequately do so. The panel noted that the Fukushima incident did happen in Japan, giving that country “a strong interest” in the litigation. But the panel also acknowledged that the Plaintiffs are U.S. service members, which also gives this country a strong interest in the case.
The sailors are represented by Charles A. Bonner, Adam Cabral Bonner and Paul C. Garner of the Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner and John R. Edwards and Catharine E. Edwards of Edwards Kirby. The government is represented by Benjamin C. Mizer, Laura E. Duffy, Douglas N. Letter, Sharon Swingle and Dana Kaersvang of the U.S. Department of Justice; Brian J. Egan of the U.S. Department of State; and Jennifer M. O’Connor of the U.S. Department of Defense.
The case is Lindsay R. Cooper et al. v. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Inc., (case number 15-56424) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.