Court recognizes state liability for humidifier sanitizer victims for 1st time

SEOUL, A court on Tuesday recognized the state's liability to compensate humidifier disinfectant victims or their bereaved families for the first time in South Korea. The Seoul High Court overturned a lower court's verdict that the state is not responsible for compensation to the victims of toxic humidifier sterilizer products, ruling in favor of five victims and other plaintiffs in their litigation against the state. The appellate court ordered the state to pay 3 million won (US$2,260) to 5 million won in compensation to three of the plaintiffs. The court said it found some lapses after examining whether there was any negligence by public officials in the process of screening and publicizing the toxicity of the chemical materials. The litigation began in 2014, when a group of people, who received hospital treatment due to unexplained lung damage after using humidifier disinfectants between 2008 and 2011, and their bereaved families filed a lawsuit for damages against the state and manufacturers. The num ber of plaintiffs was 10. A district court acknowledged the manufacturers' liability for compensation in 2016 but dismissed their claim against the state, citing a lack of evidence. Then five of the 10 plaintiffs appealed against the district court's dismissal of their claim against the state. The Ministry of Environment serving as the defendant in the litigation said it will review the appellate court's ruling and consult with relevant government agencies before deciding whether to appeal to the Supreme Court. The humidifier disinfectant scandal is one of the country's worst consumer goods disasters. In 2011, consumers started to report deaths and illnesses allegedly tied to humidifier disinfectants, widely used in households in dry winters. A government-led investigation confirmed the link between the two the following year. Source: Yonhap News Agency