Parents of schoolboy ordered to pay 15 million yen after wayward soccer ball leads to man’s death

RocketNews 24:

Earlier this week the Supreme Court of Japan set a ruling date of 9 April in the long-running case of a soccer mishap which resulted in a man’s death. The incident occurred when the deceased was riding a motor bike and fell trying to avoid a soccer ball that rolled out from a school yard.

In the decade since the incident occurred, the family of the man has been trying to hold the parents of the boy who kicked the ball financially responsible and so far has succeeded in two previous rulings. If the Supreme Court agrees with the previous two decisions then the boys’ mother and father will possibly have to pay 15 million yen (US$125,000) to the family.

The incident took place in February of 2004 at an elementary school in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture. A man in his eighties was passing by the school on his scooter at about the same time a schoolboy kicked a soccer ball at a goal placed near the gate.

In an attempt to avoid the ball the elderly rider fell over and broke his leg. According to the subsequent trials the man then immediately began to show signs of dementia and about a year and a half later he had succumbed to pneumonia.

Readers found this sequence of events rather odd.

“The pneumonia is not connected.”
“He got dementia ‘right after’ you say?”
“What’s the real danger: a kid playing ball at school or a guy in his 80s riding a motorbike?”
“It could be that being bedridden from the broken leg may have triggered the other problems.”

The courts seemed to agree with the last commenter’s sentiment that the soccer ball was a factor in the man’s death. At the first trial in Osaka District Court the man’s family argued that the parents hadn’t played enough of a supervisory role such as adequately warning the boy to pay more attention to his surroundings.

In the first trial the court ruled in favor of the man’s family and ordered the parents of the boy to pay 50 million yen ($417,000) in damages. The parents appealed in Osaka High Court on the grounds that they had met the supervisory obligations of average parents in warning the boy against dangerous play. However, the court still ruled against them but this time reduced the payment to 15 million yen.

Again readers found themselves in a disbelief.

“Wha? Even the second court made them pay money? There’s something odd about this civil case.”
“That’s harsh. Maybe the parents’ lawyer was acting rude in court?”
“Maybe they should consider an 80-year-old guy riding a scooter to be the problem?”
“That kid is 23 years old now…he’s been battling so many years. I wonder if it ruined his life.”

There were some who also agreed that the parents should pay some damages, but much less that the amount prescribed by the courts. It’s hard to say without knowing the full facts of the case, but it would certainly seem that the liability ought to fall on whoever decided to put a soccer goal right in front of a school entrance gate.

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