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Oxy sterilizer victim's father to sue U.K. headquarters

A South Korean father who claims to have lost his son to a harmful Oxy Reckitt Benckiser humidifier sterilizer said Saturday he will file a compensation suit against the British company later this month.

Kim Deok-jong, 40, said he decided to file the damage suit against the British company after CEO Rakesh Kapoor refused his demand to visit South Korea to make an apology in front of the sterilizer's victims. His 5-year-old son died in 2009 after battling a respiratory disease.

His legal representative will notify Oxy of his intention to file for a compensation claim next week, a preliminary process needed to proceed with a formal suit.

Kim Deok-jong, who lost his son after using Oxy Reckitt Benckiser's humidifier sterilizer, stages a protest in front of the British firm's headquarters in Slough, U.K., on Saturday. (Yonhap)
Kim Deok-jong, who lost his son after using Oxy Reckitt Benckiser's humidifier sterilizer, stages a protest in front of the British firm's headquarters in Slough, U.K., on Saturday. (Yonhap)
"We will lodge a complaint with the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court when the three-week preliminary period ends," Kim In-soo, a lawyer of British law firm KG Solicitors, said.

If filed, it will be the first civil suit to go on trial in a British court against Oxy Reckitt Benckiser over sales of the toxic humidifier sterilizer.

The father said he is also considering handing over the case to British police in consultation with South Korean prosecutors currently investigating it.

A criminal suit will be possible after South Korean prosecutors announce its investigation results, which would provide the legal grounds that Oxy headquarters approved sales of the harmful product in the Korean market.

"We will be able to (bring the case to the British police) after Korean prosecutors conclude the ongoing investigation into the case," the father Kim said.

Korean prosecutors have expanded their investigation into the Korean unit, summoning former Korean CEO Shin Hyun-woo and two other senior officials earlier this month.

The humidifier disinfectant case, one of the worst scandals involving a consumer product using chemicals, came to light after four pregnant women died of lung problems for unknown reasons in 2011. A government-led investigation confirmed a connection between more than 100 people who died of lung problems and the chemicals used to clean household humidifiers.

The focus of the investigation will be on whether the company's high-ranking executives approved the sales of its disinfectants while knowing the health risks.

Last week, the chief of Oxy Reckitt Benckiser's Korean unit made a formal apology and vowed to fully cooperate with South Korean authorities and conduct its own investigation to get to the bottom of the case. (Yonhap)

 

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