Man switched at birth wins damages for poor life

November 27, 2013


A court ordered a social welfare corporation to pay 32 million yen ($316,830) to a 60-year-old man from a rich family who was switched at birth and ended up living in a poor home.

“(The mix-up) caused mental distress by depriving him of an opportunity to gain a higher education although his original family was wealthy,” Presiding Judge Masatoshi Miyasaka said in the ruling at the Tokyo District Court on Nov. 26.

The man’s biological parents sent all four of their sons, including the one involved in the mix-up, to private high schools and universities.

The plaintiff landed a job at a small workshop after graduating from junior high school. He later attended industrial high school night classes and now works as a truck driver. His biological parents died before the hospital mistake was uncovered.

“I am relieved by the court’s decision to acknowledge our demands,” the man, who lives in Tokyo, was quoted as saying by his lawyer after the ruling.

The court said the results of a DNA test in January 2009 confirmed the mix-up 60 years ago. The ruling follows a long search by the man’s real brothers who doubted their oldest brother was a blood relative based on his appearance.

According to the ruling, the man was born in March 1953 at San-Ikukai Hospital in Tokyo’s Sumida Ward. The hospital is operated by San-Ikukai, a social welfare corporation in the same ward.

Hospital staff mistook him for the son of a couple whose real son was born 13 minutes after he was delivered.

After the man’s “father” died in 1955, his “mother” raised him and two real sons while on welfare.

The court noted that a person’s academic status is not predetermined by the family background. But it acknowledged that the plaintiff suffered mental anguish because he was raised in an environment where he could not expect to receive a college education.

The court said it determined the amount of damages by also taking into consideration the fact that the man was denied contact with his biological parents and siblings for about 59 years.

The court also said the parents were entitled to 6 million yen. But since they are dead, the court ordered San-Ikukai to pay that amount to the man’s three younger biological brothers, who were also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The man’s biological parents suffered because they “permanently lost an opportunity to live with their own son, even though they were unaware of the mix-up while they were alive,” the court said.

The brothers’ doubts about their eldest brother deepened after their mother said “the newborn baby, when he was brought to me, was wearing clothes different from those I had prepared.”

The brothers found their real brother after the Tokyo District Court granted their request to examine records on babies born at the hospital.

An official at San-Ikukai declined to comment on the ruling.

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San-Ikukai Hospital in Tokyo's Sumida Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

San-Ikukai Hospital in Tokyo's Sumida Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • San-Ikukai Hospital in Tokyo's Sumida Ward (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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