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Appeals sought in milk case
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2009-06-25 07:58

The distraught families of 118 children who were poisoned during the tainted milk scandal are unhappy with their compensation offer and want to launch a class-action lawsuit against Sanlu and the other dairy producers.

The parents have signed a petition asking for their collective litigation to be accepted by any court within the country and for their legal fees to be waived.

"The compensation we could get is obviously unfair, and individual litigation has made many families like ours suffer even more," Li Xiaohong, whose child was sickened by the industrial chemical melamine, said yesterday. "The justice system is our last resort and the final frontier for impartiality."

The parents' group, headed by Beijing resident Zhao Lianhai, whose son was also sickened, told China Daily that the petition was submitted by four group representatives to the Supreme Court in northern Hebei province, the provincial intermediate court and the Xinhua district court.

"Our primary demands are to raise a collective litigation, have all our litigation fees waived and negotiate with the government and dairy producers before the trial opens," said Zhao, a former employee of China's food safety watchdog.

Sanlu Group, which was based in Shijiazhuang, had been China's leading seller of milk powder for 15 years until the melamine scandal broke last September. The company's tainted baby milk powder was found to have caused the deaths of at least six children and sickened more than 300,000 others.

Melamine was added to watered-down milk to make it appear thicker and higher in protein. Ingestion in large amounts can cause kidney stones and kidney failure.

The current compensation plan offers 200,000 yuan ($29,262) to the families of babies who died, 30,000 yuan ($4,389) for infants severely sickened and 2,000 yuan ($293) for other victims.

The Supreme Court has advised courts around the country to accept lawsuits filed by victims who want to appeal the compensation offer. However, only the Xinhua District Court in Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital city where the now-defunct Sanlu Group was based, has accepted appeals.

The petition letter said the Xinhua court accepted one appeal case in March and another in April, but other litigation attempts against Sanlu and other milk producers have failed.

The two cases, according to the parents, are still "not even close" to coming before the court.

Zhao, aged 37, said he was "pleased with the intermediate court", which sent two senior officials to talk with them and promised to forward their request for collective litigation to the Supreme Court.

The Xinhua court refused to comment when contacted by the China Daily yesterday.

Source:China Daily 
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