[JURIST] Chinese courts have begun accepting lawsuits against dairy companies in the contaminated milk scandal [JURIST news archive], a court official announced Monday, departing from their previous policy. Shen Deyong, executive vice president of the Supreme People's Court [official website, in Mandarin], China's highest court, made the announcement the day after the Chinese government announced it had finished compensating the families [Xinhua report] whose children were sickened by the tainted milk. Prior to Tuesday's announcement, the only remedy available to the families was a government-sponsored compensation plan [JURIST report] that paid families between USD $290 and $29,000. According to Shen, 95 percent of the families involved accepted the compensation, which supposedly precludes them from filing lawsuits. The Qingdao Intermediate Peoples Court became the first court to accept these lawsuits Monday when it accepted a lawsuit [China Daily report] seeking USD $1.2 million on behalf of 54 families of children made ill by the tainted milk.
Two people were sentenced to death [JURIST report] in January due to their roles in the scandal that killed six children and sickened nearly 300,000 others. Earlier that month, lawyers for the families of 213 Chinese children sickened or killed by the contaminated milk petitioned [JURIST report] the Supreme People's Court to hear a class action lawsuit against 22 dairy companies involved in the contamination, seeking more than $5 million in damages. In January, police in China detained five parents [JURIST report] of children who became sick after drinking melamine-tainted milk, preventing the parents from participating in a news conference.