Parents file lawsuit in China against dairy firm

By Scott McDonald, AP

BEIJING — The parents of a baby allegedly sickened in China’s tainted milk crisis are suing one of the country’s biggest dairies in the first known lawsuit stemming from the scandal, a lawyer said Thursday.

Although product liability lawsuits have become more common in recent years, the lawyer, Ji Cheng, said he would not know until next week if the court in Henan province would take the case.

“The court will make the decision whether to accept this case after the National Day holiday,” Ji said told The Associated Press. China is marking its founding with a weeklong holiday, and government agencies are closed.

The hospitalized 14-month-old from central China’s Henan province was fed infant formula made by Sanlu Group Co. from birth, according to a report by Caijing, a leading Chinese business magazine.

Lawyers said they had not heard of any other civil lawsuits being filed in response to the melamine contamination of liquid milk, yogurt and other products made with milk. Four infants have died and more than 50,000 have become ill after drinking the contaminated formula, which has been linked to kidney stones.

The lawsuit comes amid increasing public awareness of an individual’s legal rights in China. Some parents who lost their children when shoddily built schools collapsed in a massive earthquake in May reportedly tried to sue local governments, but were offered cash in return for signing pledges not to pursue legal action.

Ji said one of the sick child’s parents filed a lawsuit in a court in Zhenping county seeking US$22,000 (150,000 yuan) in compensation from Sanlu for medical, travel and other expenses incurred after the child developed kidney stones. The amount could go up because the child is still being treated.