US Atomic Veterans Who Helped Out During Fukushima – Lawsuit Against TEPCO For Radiation Exposure (USS Ronald Reagan)

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On the afternoon of March 12, the day following the earthquake, Plaintiffs arrived off the coasts of Fukushima Prefecture aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan and other vessels to provide humanitarian aid. Plaintiffs allege that TEPCO promulgated false information regarding the extent of the damage to the FNPP, misleading the public, Japanese officials, and the U.S. military. They allege that TEPCO’s management publicly announced that there was no danger to those participating in Operation Tomodachi, despite knowing that there was a risk of radiation exposure. Plaintiffs claim that they and U.S. military officials were unaware of the extent of the radiation leak and that they would not have been deployed as close to the FNPP had TEPCO been forthcoming about the damage. They further allege that the U.S. military would not ordinarily discover such radiation absent sufficient warning. On March 14, two days after their arrival, Plaintiffs allege that their vessels were repositioned further away from the FNPP after U.S. officials onboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan detected nuclear contamination in the air and on an aircraft operating near the FNPP. “Sensitive instruments” aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan discovered measurable levels of radioactivity on seventeen aircrew members returning from relief missions.

 

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(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kevin B. Gray/Released, via Flickr)

 

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER, Page 4

Filed June 22, 2017

Before: A. Wallace Tashima, Kim McLane Wardlaw, and Jay S. Bybee, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge Bybee

SUMMARY *

Interlocutory Appeal

The panel affirmed the district court’s denial of Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc.’s motion to dismiss a putative class action brought by members of the U.S. Navy who allege that they were exposed to radiation when deployed near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant as part of Operation Tomodachi, a relief effort following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami on Japan’s northeastern coast.

The panel held that Article XIII of the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (“CSC”) did not strip U.S. courts of jurisdiction over claims arising out of nuclear incidents that occurred prior to the CSC’s entry into force on April 15, 2015.

The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it decided to maintain jurisdiction, and did not dismiss plaintiffs’ claim on international comity grounds. First, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its

* This summary constitutes no part of the opinion of the court. It has been prepared by court staff for the convenience of the reader.

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER, Page 5

discretion in weighing U.S. and Japanese interests, and in concluding that the parties’ ties to the United States outweighed the fact that the alleged negligent conduct occurred in Japan. The panel noted that Japan has a strong interest in centralizing jurisdiction over Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant-related claims, and the United States had a strong interest in maintaining jurisdiction over this in order to help promote the CSC. Second, the panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Japan would provide an adequate alternative forum for resolving plaintiffs’ claims. Finally, the panel held that because comity is not a jurisdictional decision, it is a fluid doctrine, and the district court would be free to revisit the question should either the facts or the interests of the governments change.

The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds.

The panel held that at this stage in the litigation, it was unable to undertake the “discriminating inquiry” necessary to determine if the case presented a political question because there were outstanding basic factual questions regarding the Navy’s operations during Operation Tomodachi. The panel concluded that the political question doctrine did not currently require dismissal, but Tokyo Electric Power Company was free to raise the political question doctrine again, if and when, further developments demonstrated that a political question was inextricable from the case.

The panel provided no opinion as to whether California’s firefighter’s rule applied to military service members and, if so, whether it barred plaintiffs’ claims.

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 6

COUNSEL

Daniel Paul Collins (argued), Rio S. Pierce, and Gregory P. Stone, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, Los Angeles, California; Bryan H. Heckenlively, Munger Tolles & Olson LLP, San Francisco, California; for Defendant-Appellant.

Adam Cabral Bonner (argued) and Charles A. Bonner (argued), Law Offices of Bonner & Bonner, Sausalito, California; Paul C. Garner (argued), Rancho Mirage, California; John R. Edwards, Edwards Kirby, Raleigh, North Carolina; Catherine E. Edwards, Edwards Kirby, Del Mar, California; for Plaintiffs-Appellees.

OPINION

BYBEE, Circuit Judge:

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 earthquake and a massive tsunami struck Japan’s northeastern coast. The United States participated in a relief effort known as Operation Tomodachi (Japanese for “friend”). The plaintiffs in this putative class action lawsuit are members of the U.S. Navy who allege that they were exposed to radiation when deployed near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (“FNPP”) as part of Operation Tomodachi. The earthquake and tsunami damaged the FNPP, causing radiation leaks. Plaintiffs sued Defendant Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. (“TEPCO”), the owner and operator of the FNPP, in the Southern District of California for negligence and other causes of action. TEPCO moved to dismiss the case on the grounds of international comity, forum non conveniens, the political question doctrine, and the firefighter’s rule. The district court denied the motion

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 7

on all grounds, but certified its order denying TEPCO’s motion to dismiss for immediate appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). We agreed to take the interlocutory appeal. At this interlocutory stage in the proceedings, we affirm the district court’s denial of TEPCO’s motion to dismiss on all grounds. Further developments, however, may require the district court to revisit some of the issues that TEPCO raised in its motion to dismiss.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. The FNPP Meltdown

The March 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami were nothing short of devastating. 1 Over 15,000 deaths were reported, and there was immense damage to the region’s infrastructure. Cleanup efforts continue to this day, over six years later. One of the most alarming consequences of the catastrophe was the damage to the FNPP. The incident has been described as the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. The FNPP consisted of six boiling water reactors. At the time of the earthquake, only units one through three were in operation. The earthquake triggered an automatic shutdown of the three operating units. Water from the tsunami, however, disabled generators necessary to cool the reactors, causing the three units to melt down and leak radiation. Plaintiffs allege that the first meltdown occurred five hours after the earthquake and that units one through three exploded that same day. They further allege that over 300 tons of contaminated water from the FNPP began seeping into the sea after the meltdown.

1 We take the facts from Plaintiffs’ complaint and, for our purposes, we assume them to be true.

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 8

On the afternoon of March 12, the day following the earthquake, Plaintiffs arrived off the coasts of Fukushima Prefecture aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Ronald Reagan and other vessels to provide humanitarian aid. Plaintiffs allege that TEPCO promulgated false information regarding the extent of the damage to the FNPP, misleading the public, Japanese officials, and the U.S. military. They allege that TEPCO’s management publicly announced that there was no danger to those participating in Operation Tomodachi, despite knowing that there was a risk of radiation exposure. Plaintiffs claim that they and U.S. military officials were unaware of the extent of the radiation leak and that they would not have been deployed as close to the FNPP had TEPCO been forthcoming about the damage. They further allege that the U.S. military would not ordinarily discover such radiation absent sufficient warning.

On March 14, two days after their arrival, Plaintiffs allege that their vessels were repositioned further away from the FNPP after U.S. officials onboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan detected nuclear contamination in the air and on an aircraft operating near the FNPP. “Sensitive instruments” aboard the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan discovered measurable levels of radioactivity on seventeen aircrew members returning from relief missions.

In the months following the earthquake, Japan commissioned the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (the “Commission”) to investigate the incident. The Commission determined that the meltdown was foreseeable in light of the known tsunami risks in the region and that TEPCO and the relevant regulatory bodies failed to take adequate precautions to prevent the incident. Though the earthquake and tsunami were natural disasters,

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 9

the Commission characterized the FNPP meltdown as a “manmade” disaster. In 2013, TEPCO also allegedly admitted that it could have avoided the meltdown.

In an effort to compensate victims of the FNPP meltdown, the Japanese government developed a comprehensive scheme to deal with the millions of claims resulting from the FNPP leak, giving claimants the option to submit a claim directly to TEPCO, to the newly established Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center, or to a Japanese court. These avenues for relief are available to all victims, regardless of nationality. Over $58 billion has been paid out to victims of the disaster. Brief of Amicus Curiae the Government of Japan 1–2, ECF No. 23. The Japanese government has provided immense financial support to TEPCO to keep TEPCO solvent. Although Plaintiffs could have pursued their claims against TEPCO in Japan, they chose to sue in the United States.

B. District Court Proceedings

Each Plaintiff in the present suit alleges that he or she was exposed to radiation during Operation Tomodachi. Plaintiffs request a judgment compelling TEPCO to establish a billion-dollar fund to cover continuing medical monitoring costs. They also request damages, including lost wages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages.

In Plaintiffs’ First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), they alleged that TEPCO and the Japanese government conspired to keep the extent of the radiation leak secret. They further alleged that “the U.S. Navy was lulled into a false sense of security,” which led it to deploy Plaintiffs “without doing the kinds of research and testing that would have verified” the

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 10

extent of the nuclear meltdown. The district court found that adjudicating this claim would require impermissible scrutiny of discretionary military judgments and would also require the court to evaluate communications between the U.S. and Japanese governments regarding the FNPP. Accordingly, the district court dismissed the FAC under the political question doctrine but granted Plaintiffs leave to amend. Cooper v. Tokyo Elec. Power Co., Inc. (Cooper I), 990 F. Supp. 2d 1035, 1039–42 (S.D. Cal. 2013).

In the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”), Plaintiffs removed their conspiracy allegations and relied instead on allegations that TEPCO was negligent in operating the FNPP and in reporting the extent of the radiation leak. TEPCO filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the SAC still presented a political question because determining whether TEPCO’s conduct was the proximate cause of Plaintiffs’ injuries would require the court to evaluate the Navy’s decision to deploy troops near the FNPP. TEPCO also argued that, given Japan’s extensive efforts to compensate FNPP victims, the SAC should be dismissed under the doctrines of international comity or forum non conveniens. TEPCO further contended that the so-called firefighter’s rule, which bars first responders from suing those who cause the emergency to which they respond, barred Plaintiffs’ claims.

The district court denied TEPCO’s motion to dismiss.2

Shortly thereafter, TEPCO filed a motion for reconsideration

2 The SAC contained ten causes of action, including claims for negligence, strict liability, nuisance, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted TEPCO’s motion to dismiss with respect to Plaintiffs’ claims of design defect and intentional infliction of emotional distress but let the remaining eight causes of action proceed.

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in light of our opinion in Mujica v. AirScan, Inc., 771 F.3d 580 (9th Cir. 2014), which provided additional guidance to district courts on how to determine whether to dismiss a case on international comity grounds. The district court granted TEPCO’s motion for reconsideration, but again denied TEPCO’s motion to dismiss. Cooper v. Tokyo Elec. Power Co., Inc. (Cooper II), 166 F. Supp. 3d 1103 (S.D. Cal. 2015). The district court concluded that the SAC’s restyling of Plaintiffs’ claims no longer implicated any political questions because it focused on TEPCO’s negligence rather than the military’s decision to deploy troops. Id. at 1117–24. The district court also rejected TEPCO’s alternative theories for dismissal. Id. at 1126–28, 1130–40. Per TEPCO’s request, the district court certified the issues for immediate appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b). Id. at 1141–43.

C. Appellate Proceedings

On appeal, TEPCO urges us to reverse the district court’s determinations regarding international comity, forum non conveniens, the political question doctrine, and the firefighter’s rule. The government of Japan, which had expressed no views on the location of this litigation to the district court, also filed an amicus brief urging us to reverse the district court’s decision and order the district court to dismiss Plaintiffs’ claims so that Plaintiffs can pursue their claims in Japan. In its brief, the Japanese government expresses concern that foreign lawsuits such as Plaintiffs’ could threaten the viability of Japan’s continuing efforts to ensure that all FNPP victims receive fair compensation.

In light of Japan’s brief, we solicited the United States Department of State’s views on whether this litigation should proceed in the United States. In response, the United States

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 12

filed an amicus brief arguing that the district court did not err in allowing Plaintiffs’ claims to proceed for the time being. Specifically, the United States opines that allowing Plaintiffs’ lawsuit to continue in the United States is consistent with U.S. efforts to promote the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (“CSC”).

The parties each filed supplemental briefs in response to the United States’ position. General Electric Co. (“GE”)3 also filed an amicus brief responding to the United States’ argument that maintaining jurisdiction will help promote the CSC. Both TEPCO and GE argue that, although it did not enter into force until after Plaintiffs’ litigation was already pending, the CSC strips all U.S. courts of jurisdiction over claims arising out of the FNPP incident. If correct, TEPCO and GE’s argument undermines the United States’ position that maintaining jurisdiction in the United States will help promote the CSC, and provides an independent basis for dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims.

II. ANALYSIS

We begin by addressing whether the CSC strips U.S. courts of jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims. 4 We then

3 GE is a defendant in the district court but not a party to this appeal. Plaintiffs claim that GE is liable for defectively designing the FNPP’s reactors.

4 GE raised this argument in the district court, but the district court has yet to rule on it. Because TEPCO and GE’s argument questions our jurisdiction, we may consider it in the first instance on appeal. See Allstate Ins. Co. v. Hughes, 358 F.3d 1089, 1093 (9th Cir. 2004) (“The court has a continuing obligation to assess its own subject-matter jurisdiction . . . .”).

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 13

address TEPCO’s arguments regarding international comity, forum non conveniens, the political question doctrine, and the firefighter’s rule.

A. Jurisdiction Under the CSC

The CSC is an attempt to create “a worldwide liability regime” for dealing with nuclear accidents. Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, Preamble, opened for signature Sept. 29, 1997, S. Treaty Doc. No. 107-21 (2002) [hereinafter CSC]. One of the main goals of such a regime is to control the nuclear energy industry’s liability exposure, thus ensuring the continuing viability of the industry, while at the same time ensuring compensation for victims of nuclear accidents. Prior to the CSC, there were two major conventions addressing liability for nuclear accidents: the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy of July 1960 and the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage of May 1963. Both of these conventions included a number of provisions aimed at compensating victims of nuclear accidents while keeping the nuclear energy industry viable, such as imposing strict liability on operators of nuclear installations, requiring those operators to maintain insurance in certain amounts, permitting countries to cap the liability of nuclear installation operators, requiring countries to fund compensation for nuclear damage should private insurance be inadequate, and centralizing jurisdiction over claims arising out of nuclear incidents in the country where the nuclear incident occurred. Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage arts. II, V, VII, XI, May 21, 1963, 1063 U.N.T.S. 266; Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy arts. 6–7, 10, 13, 15, July 29, 1960, 956 U.N.T.S. 251. The United States was not a party

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 14

to either of these conventions, but enacted similar measures in the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act of 1957. See 42 U.S.C. § 2210.

To join the CSC, a country must be a party to the Vienna or Paris Conventions or have laws (such as the Price-Anderson Act) that meet the requirements set forth in the CSC’s annex. The CSC builds upon these prior conventions and national laws by creating an international supplementary compensation fund for victims of nuclear incidents. Under the CSC, contracting countries are required to ensure the availability of a certain amount of funds to compensate victims of a nuclear incident that occurs within their territories. CSC art. III. Beyond that amount, the contracting countries will contribute to a supplemental compensation fund. Id. Like the Paris and Vienna Conventions, the CSC also provides that “jurisdiction over actions concerning nuclear damage from a nuclear incident shall lie only with the courts of the Contracting Party within which the nuclear incident occurs.” Id. art. XIII(1).

The CSC was set to enter into force ninety days after “the date on which at least 5 States with a minimum of 400,000 units of installed nuclear capacity” ratified it. CSC art. XX(1). The CSC opened for signature on September 29, 1997, at which time the United States signed it. See Int’l Atomic Energy Agency, Status Report on the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (2016). The United States ratified the CSC in May 2008, id., but it was not until Japan signed and ratified the CSC on January 15, 2015, almost four years after the FNPP incident, that there were enough parties to put the CSC into effect. Ninety days later on April 15, 2015, the CSC entered into force, almost two-and-a-half years after Plaintiffs first filed this suit. Id.

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 15

TEPCO and GE do not argue that the entirety of the CSC applies to the FNPP incident. Rather, they acknowledge the general principle that “[u]nless a different intention appears from the treaty or is otherwise established, its provisions do not bind a party in relation to any act or fact which took place or any situation which ceased to exist before the date of the entry into force of the treaty with respect to that party.” Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties art. 28, May 23, 1969, 1155 U.N.T.S. 331.5 Based on this principle, TEPCO and GE accept that the CSC’s supplemental fund is unavailable for nuclear incidents occurring before the CSC’s entry into force, including the FNPP incident. Appellant’s Opening Brief 28, ECF No. 14; Appellant’s Supplementary Brief 10, ECF No. 98; Brief of Amicus Curiae GE 11, ECF No. 96. TEPCO and GE maintain, however, that Article XIII’s mandate that “jurisdiction over actions concerning nuclear damage from a nuclear incident shall lie only with the courts of the Contracting Party within which the nuclear incident occurs” applies to cases pending before the CSC entered into force.

This is so, TEPCO and GE argue, because jurisdictional provisions are not subject to limits on retroactive application. In support of this contention, TEPCO and GE cite a long list of cases explaining that jurisdictional provisions do not retroactively alter substantive rights, but only alter where plaintiffs can go to obtain prospective relief. Accordingly,

5 Although the United States is not a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, it acknowledges the non-retroactivity principle as an element of customary international law. United States’ Brief 13 n.5, ECF No. 81; see Mora v. New York, 524 F.3d 183, 196 n.19 (2d Cir. 2008) (“The Department of State considers the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties an authoritative guide to current treaty law and practice.”).

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 16

TEPCO and GE argue that jurisdiction-stripping provisions such as the one at issue here presumptively apply to pending cases. See, e.g., Landgraf v. USI Film Prods., 511 U.S. 244, 274 (1994) (“We have regularly applied intervening statutes conferring or ousting jurisdiction, whether or not jurisdiction lay when the underlying conduct occurred or when the suit was filed. . . . Application of a new jurisdictional rule usually ‘takes away no substantive right but simply changes the tribunal that is to hear the case.’” (citation omitted)); Bruner v. United States, 343 U.S. 112, 116–17 (1952) (“This rule—that, when a law conferring jurisdiction is repealed without any reservation as to pending cases, all cases fall with the law—has been adhered to consistently by this Court.”); Duldulao v. INS, 90 F.3d 396, 399 (9th Cir. 1996) (“The Supreme Court has long held that ‘when a law conferring jurisdiction is repealed without any reservation as to pending cases, all cases fall within the law.’” (citation omitted)). TEPCO and GE also argue that the same principle applies to jurisdictional provisions in treaties. See, e.g., Third Report on the Law of Treaties, [1964] 2 Y.B. Int’l L. Comm’n 11, U.N. Doc. A/CN.4/167 (suggesting that certain jurisdictional provisions in treaties apply to any “dispute which exists between the parties after the coming into force of the treaty” regardless of whether “the dispute concerns events which took place prior to that date.”). In short, because the courts of Japan are undisputedly open to Plaintiffs, and because Article XIII makes no reservation as to pending cases, TEPCO and GE argue that the CSC strips us of jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims.

We find this argument plausible, but ultimately unpersuasive. Although jurisdictional provisions can and often do apply to cases already pending when those provisions go into effect, it is not true that we always apply

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 17

new jurisdictional provisions to pending cases. Rather, we look at the jurisdiction-stripping provision in the context of the statute or treaty at issue, applying normal canons of construction, to determine if the provision should apply to pending cases. Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557, 577 (2006) (“[Not] all jurisdiction-stripping provisions—or even all such provisions that truly lack retroactive effect—must apply to cases pending at the time of their enactment. ‘[N]ormal rules of construction,’ including a contextual reading of the statutory language, may dictate otherwise.” (second alteration in original) (citation omitted)); Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326 (1997) (“In determining whether a statute’s terms would produce a retroactive effect, however, and in determining a statute’s temporal reach generally, our normal rules of construction apply.”); see also Sumitomo Shoji Am., Inc. v. Avagliano, 457 U.S. 176, 180 (1982) (“The clear import of treaty language controls unless ‘application of the words of the treaty according to their obvious meaning effects a result inconsistent with the intent or expectations of its signatories.’” (citation omitted)).

Applying normal rules of construction to Article XIII, we do not believe that it strips U.S. courts of jurisdiction over claims arising out of nuclear incidents that occurred prior to the CSC’s entry into force. 6 Two things bring us to this

6 For purposes of this analysis, we will assume that Article XIII is self-executing. See Medellin v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491, 505–06 (2008) (explaining that a treaty “ordinarily ‘depends for the enforcement of its provisions on the interest and the honor of the governments which are parties to it,’” but that some treaties “contain[] stipulations which are self-executing, that is, . . . they have the force and effect of a legislative enactment” (citation omitted)); Letter of Submittal for the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage at XV, August 7, 2001, S. Treaty Doc. No. 107-21 (“As with similar jurisdictional provisions in earlier treaties submitted to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification, it is anticipated that the provisions of Article XIII would be applied without the need for further implementing legislation.”). Because we conclude that, in any event, Article XIII does not apply to claims arising out of the FNPP incident, we need not decide this issue.

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 18

conclusion. First, starting with Article XIII’s text, we find it informative that the CSC gives exclusive jurisdiction to “the courts of the Contracting Party within which the nuclear incident occurs.” CSC art. XIII(1) (emphasis added). The use of the present tense suggests that the provision applies to future nuclear incidents and does not include past incidents. One would expect the drafters to have used the past tense had they intended to alter jurisdiction over claims arising out of nuclear incidents that occurred before the CSC’s entry into force. Other paragraphs within Article XIII also use the present tense, similarly indicating that Article XIII refers only to claims arising out of future nuclear incidents. See id. art. XIII(2) (“Where a nuclear incident occurs within the area of the exclusive economic zone of a Contracting Party[,] . . . jurisdiction over actions concerning nuclear damage from that nuclear incident shall, for the purposes of this Convention, lie only with the courts of that Party.” (emphasis added)); id. art. XIII(3) (“Where a nuclear incident does not occur within the territory of any Contracting Party[,] . . . jurisdiction over actions concerning nuclear damage from the nuclear incident shall lie only with the courts of the Installation State.” (emphasis added)). 7

7 TEPCO and GE counter that versions of the CSC in other languages, which are equally authentic, see CSC art. XXVII, use different verb tenses. The Spanish text, for example, uses the phrase “haya ocurrido.” “Haya” is the present subjunctive form of the Spanish verb “haber,” which in English means “to have.” As TEPCO and GE note, the phrase “haya ocurrido” means “has occurred.” In other words, the Spanish text grants jurisdiction to the courts of the country where the nuclear incident “has occurred,” not where it “occurs.” TEPCO and GE suggest that this difference precludes us from giving much weight to the English text’s use of the present tense.

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 19

Second, the CSC’s overall framework also supports our conclusion that Article XIII does not apply to claims arising out of nuclear incidents that precede the CSC’s entry into force because we view the promise of exclusive jurisdiction as a quid pro quo for establishing a compensation fund. To accept TEPCO and GE’s argument that the CSC’s jurisdictional provision applies to the current case, we would have to view Article XIII as a stand-alone provision, independent of the CSC’s remaining provisions, to centralize jurisdiction over nuclear damage claims in a single country. We cannot fairly construe the CSC in this manner. Article XIII is but one component of the compensation scheme created in the CSC. The CSC’s title—The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage—suggests what the remainder of the document makes clear: the CSC is, first and foremost, concerned with creating an international backstop for funding claims by victims of nuclear incidents.

We think that TEPCO and GE’s reliance on the Spanish text is misplaced. The Spanish text’s use of the phrase “haya ocurrido”—a subjunctive form that conveys a mood of indeterminancy that has no direct English counterpart—does not necessarily suggest that the CSC’s jurisdictional provision encompasses pre-existing nuclear incidents. Even if the CSC used the past tense and limited jurisdiction to “the courts of the Contracting Party within which the nuclear incident occurred,” that would not answer the question at issue here. In that case, the use of the past tense only shows the temporal relationship between the nuclear accident and the lawsuit, the former obviously preceding the latter. But this wording leaves open the question whether the nuclear accident had to occur after the CSC’s entry into force for the provision to apply. Even if other languages make the answer to that question ambiguous, our second point above compels our conclusion that the CSC applies only to nuclear incidents occurring after the CSC’s entry into force.

COOPER V. TOKYO ELECTRIC POWER 20

The “Purpose and Application” section reinforces that “[t]he purpose of this Convention is to supplement the system of compensation provided pursuant to” the Vienna and Paris Conventions and national laws such as the Price-Anderson Act. CSC art. II(1). To carry out its goal, the CSC creates what the CSC itself refers to as a “system,” id. art. II(2), or a “worldwide liability regime,” id., Preamble. Nothing in the CSC suggests that one component of that system, such as the jurisdictional provision at issue here, would apply when the entire system does not. The jurisdictional provision is not independent of the compensation scheme, but is part of the mechanism for effectuating that scheme.

Other provisions of the CSC confirm our reading that Article XIII is not an independent agreement to centralize litigation from a nuclear accident in a single country, but a mechanism for administering the supplemental compensation fund. A country whose courts have jurisdiction under Article XIII obtains certain rights and responsibilities. Specifically, “the Contracting party whose courts have jurisdiction shall inform the other Contracting Parties of a nuclear incident as soon as it appears that” domestic funds may be insufficient to compensate victims. Id. art. VI. Once domestic funds are exhausted, “the Contracting Party whose courts have jurisdiction shall request the other Contracting Parties to make available” the supplemental compensation fund, and “the Contracting Party whose courts have jurisdiction” has “exclusive competence to disburse such funds.” Id. art. VII(1); see also id. art. X(1) (“The system of disbursement by which the [supplemental funds] are to be made available and the system of apportionment thereof shall be that of the Contracting Party whose courts have jurisdiction.”). “The Contracting party whose courts have jurisdiction” may also exercise certain rights of recourse under the CSC. Id. art…..” Read the rest-download document here: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/06/22/15-56424.pdf

Interviews and more here: http://nuclearhotseat.com/2017/06/28/fukushima-radiation-hit-uss-reagan-sailors-win-right-to-sue-tepco-in-usa-314/

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2 thoughts on “US Atomic Veterans Who Helped Out During Fukushima – Lawsuit Against TEPCO For Radiation Exposure (USS Ronald Reagan)

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