October 1, 2008, 9:21 am

China’s Milk Fiasco Yields Lawsuit — In China

Posted by Dan Slater


Source of Article:  http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/10/01/chinas-milk-fiasco-yields-lawsuit-in-china/

 

Two Chinese lawyers are boldly leading the way in the country’s tainted milk drama. Zhang Xingkuan and Ji Cheng, of Beijing’s Deheng Law Office, have filed suit against a Chinese dairy company on behalf of the parents of a one-year old boy allegedly sickened by tainted milk powder.

Zhang tells the WSJ that they’re seeking compensation of 150,000 yuan ($21,900) to cover hospital fees, travel expenses, time off from work and other costs. The attorney said that the parents claim the boy developed kidney stones from drinking milk powder made by Sanlu. Sanlu’s officials couldn’t be reached for comment. According to a report in the Washington Post, nine of the brands containing dangerous levels of melamine were produced by Sanlu, a 43 percent stake of which is owned by New Zealand dairy cooperative Fonterra.

(What’s melamine? The Post explains that melamine, which is high in nitrogen and used to make plastics and fertilizer, is believed to have been added to watered-down milk to mask the resulting protein deficiency. It can cause kidney stones and lead to kidney failure. Infants are particularly vulnerable.)

The suit, notes the WSJ, appears to be the first challenge to official efforts to keep the milk scandal — which has led to the deaths of as many as four children in China and sickened more than 54,000 — out of China’s courts. Product liability suits, reports the WSJ, are rare in China’s developing legal system. China’s official media and the family’s lawyers said the suit was the first filed in relation to illness caused by milk tainted with melamine. As is apparently common in China, the filing isn’t publicly available.

On Sept. 13, Chinese authorities promised free treatment to all children sickened by tainted dairy products, although detailed guidelines on eligibility for treatment haven’t been made public. Some hospitals have narrowly interpreted the obligation to provide care at no cost. And Zhang said the government’s promises haven’t helped his clients, who’ve been paying out-of-pocket for their son’s medical care since June.

And for those of you who, like us, hear ‘foodborne illness’ and immediately think ‘Bill Marler,’ it appears that, strangely, he’s not involved in this suit. Although he has been in China recently.

 

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