Tokyo District Court Orders 146 M. Yen in Damages over Ikebukuro Car Crash in 2019

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
The Tokyo District Court in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo

Tokyo (Jiji Press)—Tokyo District Court on Friday ordered a 92-year-old former senior government official and an insurance company to pay ¥146 million in damages for a high-profile car accident in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district in 2019.

Kozo Iizuka, serving his sentence over the accident, which killed a woman and her 3-year-old daughter, made a “one-sided and grave mistake,” Presiding Judge Kaoru Hirayama said.

Iizuka committed a “serious breach of duty of care” by mistakenly stepping on the gas pedal instead of the brake and causing the accident, the judge said

Describing the accident as gruesome, Hirayama also said that the victims’ feelings of regret could hardly be imagined.

The accident happened in the busy Ikebukuro district in April 2019. Iizuka’s car ran a red light and hurtled into a crosswalk, fatally hitting Mana Matsunaga, 31, and her daughter, Riko.

The damages lawsuit was filed in 2020 by nine people including Matsunaga’s bereaved husband, Takuya, and her father, seeking some ¥170 million.

Iizuka was head of the now-defunct Agency of Industrial Science and Technology of what is now called the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Over the accident, the same court sentenced him to five years in prison in September 2021.

During his criminal trial, Iizuka offended bereaved people by making unreasonable excuses without offering an apology, Hirayama said in his ruling Friday.

The plaintiffs claimed that Iizuka should not have driven because his pre-existing condition had made it difficult for him to move quickly.

The judge said it is difficult to say that Iizuka particularly ignored his condition to drive his car although the possibility cannot be denied that the condition affected the driver’s ability to switch between the brake and the gas pedal.

The court then ordered the damages payments to four plaintiffs, including Matsunaga’s father and Takuya, while rejecting the claims of the other five, including Matsunaga’s siblings.