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Hebei set to accept melamine lawsuits

COURTS in north China's Hebei Province have finally started to accept compensation lawsuits from the victims of a tainted-milk scandal that led to the deaths of at least six infants and illnesses affecting almost 300,000 others.

A total of 152 people have filed lawsuits in Hebei courts, Gao Yong, president of the Hebei Provincial Higher People's Court, said yesterday at the annual session of the National People's Congress in Beijing.

"Some media reports said the courts would not accept compensation cases. That's not true," Gao said.

He said the courts had been waiting for dairy companies to provide compensation.

"Now that the companies' compensation has ended, we will accept cases raised by victims who refused to take money from the companies and instead sought compensation via lawsuits," he said.

In a letter sent to victims in December, the Sanlu Group and 21 other dairy companies offered 200,000 yuan (US$29,000) for families whose children died as a result of drinking milk formula contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. The companies also agreed to pay 30,000 yuan for serious cases such as kidney stones and acute kidney failure, and 2,000 yuan for less severe cases.

Parents who did not accept the one-time compensation were asked to sign a document. They could then seek redress through lawsuits, the letter said.

About 90 percent of the families of the victims had received compensation as of January 22, the China Dairy Industry Association said.

Families of 262,662 children signed agreements with the involved enterprises to accept compensation.


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