Compensation lawsuit over tainted milk postponed

By Wang Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-09 08:08

The country's first trial for civil compensation targeting tainted-milk producer Sanlu will not go ahead as scheduled today.

Ma Xuexin, whose 20-month-old son suffered from a kidney stone because of the melamine-tainted milk, has accused bankrupt Sanlu Group and the Longhua supermarket in Beijing where he bought the formula of being responsible.

"The trial was postponed because the defendants requested further investigation into the connection between the baby's illness and the tainted formula. We haven't heard anything on when the trial will be reopened," said Lin Zheng, the administrative coordinator for the case.

A public hearing on Nov 27 ended without a verdict and the matter had been rescheduled for trial today.

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Ma was informed yesterday the case would not go ahead as planned, but he said he would persist until a satisfactory verdict is reached.

"I have the formula receipts from the supermarket. The tainted formula made my son sick. This is the truth. They are just quibbling," Ma said.

"What I want most is to make sure my son's care will be secure until he's at least 18 years old," He said.

The parents of other sick children from around the country share Ma's concerns.

Zhou Xiong from Hubei and Guo Caihong from Henan both sent their babies to hospital for kidney stones allegedly caused by Sanlu milk formula. The two families were each offered 2,000 yuan ($290), according to the compensation plan that came out last year, but both of them turned the money down.

"It doesn't even make up to the money spent on the formula, let alone what we've spent on medication," said Guo.

She said her 2-year-old daughter still shows symptoms like fever and swollen lymph nodes. Similarly, Zhou said his 23-month-old son is still suffering from kidney stones and renal atrophy after he left the hospital. But when he took his son back to the local hospital, they wouldn't admit the child again.

"The doctors asked my son to go home and drink more water. But we're worried his condition will get worse. We just hope the government can come up with a treatment plan for children like my son. You can't wait for things to get worse to look for solutions," Zhou said.

Last month, the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People's Court concluded bankruptcy procedures for Sanlu, leaving no money for the payment of settlements. This made compensation for sick children's parents impossible even if they win civil compensation lawsuits.

But Ma's lawyer, Peng Jian, has thought of a possible way out.

After learning the trial was postponed, Peng decided to add five more defendants to Ma's trial, all of them local dairy companies. He said the reason is that part of those companies' profits in 2007 came from Sanlu's selling of tainted milk formula, which also makes them responsible for the case. Also added to the trial is a third party, the China Dairy Industry Association.