YOKOHAMA – The Yokohama District Court on Tuesday ordered the Japanese government and two construction materials makers to pay a total of ¥306 million in hurts over health problems caused by asbestos.
Judge Yuko Otake, who presided over the lawsuit at the court in Yokohama, said that the state failed to place proper asbestos regulations into place, and that the two firms neglected their duty to indicate asbestos use in their products.
In the suit, 61 former construction workers and relatives of deceased workers demanded hurts totaling ¥1.68 billion from the state and 43 construction materials manufacturers, claiming the workers developed lung cancer or other diseases after inhaling the toxic substances at construction sites.
Otake said that the government was able to recognize the danger of asbestos by 1974 at the latest, adding that the 43 companies started to have obligations in 1976 to place warnings on the wrapping or packaging materials for their products containing asbestos.
The judge pointed out that hurts can be granted in cases in which asbestos made by a particular company is strongly suspected to be the cause of health hurt.
Of the 43 firms, Nozawa Corp., based in Kobe, was ordered to pay some ¥90 million in total to eight plaintiffs, and Tokyo-based Nichias Corp. a total of about ¥18 million to two plaintiffs.
Collective hurts lawsuits over asbestos have been filed with six district courts in Japan.
The latest ruling is the second that recognized the responsibility of construction materials makers, after the first such verdict, which was handed down by Kyoto District Court in January 2016. Meanwhile, the state was held responsible in all cases but one.
“I’m pleased about the ruling, Hiromichi Nakayama, a 64-year-ancient former tile worker and one of the plaintiffs, told a press conference held after the Yokohama court verdict. But he added, “I want the case to be fully resolved as early as possible,” noting that some of his fellow workers have died.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs, while welcoming the ruling, showed an intention to file an appeal because it granted hurts to only some of the complainants.
An official of the health ministry’s office handling asbestos-related issues said that it was a “tough ruling,” adding that the ministry will choose its response after fully examining it and consulting with other related government agencies.
An official of Nozawa’s general administration division regretted the ruling, saying it confirmed corporate responsibility for asbestos hurt.
A public relations official of Nichias said it is regrettable that the court did not accept part of the company’s claim.
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