Top court holds government responsible for coalminers' pneumoconiosis

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court on April 27 for the first time held the government responsible for pneumoconiosis that Chikuho coalminers in Fukuoka Prefecture contracted.

The lawsuit was first filed 18 years ago by about 200 people, including patients and bereaved families, demanding that the government and the company pay about 1.9 billion yen in compensation.

Pneumoconiosis is a disease of lungs which many coalminers contracted by inhaling coal dust. The number of plaintiff patients was 170 in 1985 when the first group filed a suit, but 143 people (80 percent) are now dead.

In the ruling, the presiding justice upheld the lower court decision that the government must pay 390 million yen in damages, stating that the government failed to properly exercise its regulatory power to prevent the disease.

Managi Akio, the plaintiff's lawyer said, "The government should regret its delaying tactics and must now work to relieve the victims and eliminate the disease."

The Supreme Court ruling will likely affect favorably on lawsuits nationwide over tunnel diggers' pnuemoconiosis. (end)

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