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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 October 8 - 14  > Top Court: state responsible for workers’ illnesses caused by asbestos
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2014 October 8 - 14 TOP3 [LABOR]

Top Court: state responsible for workers’ illnesses caused by asbestos

October 10, 2014
The Supreme Court on October 9 issued a landmark ruling that recognizes the state’s responsibility for workers’ health damages caused by exposures to asbestos in factories in Osaka and ordered the government to pay compensation for damages.

The plaintiffs are former workers at small factories in the Sennan region, southern Osaka, and their families. The former workers, who suffered from lung diseases due to exposure to asbestos at their workplaces, are waging court battles demanding compensation from the government. They claimed that their ill health was caused by the state negligence in taking preventive measures against exposure to the toxic material.

The court judgment states that the government should have obliged factory owners to install ventilation equipment to remove asbestos by 1958. This measure became mandatory in 1971. This is the first Supreme Court judgement regarding the state responsibility for health damages caused by asbestos at workplaces.

The top court, however, overlooked the state’s misjudgments that even after 1971 it was reluctant to put adequate regulations on airborne dust at workplaces and require factory operators to have their workers wear masks when handling asbestos.

Muramatsu Akio, a plaintiffs’ lawyer, after the ruling said to the press, “The court clearly recognized state responsibility. It is a victory for the plaintiffs, though not enough to satisfy.” He pointed out that the ruling will have a favorable impact on other asbestos-related court battles.

Later on the same day, the plaintiffs and their supporters held a rally at the Dietmembers’ Office building. One of the plaintiffs said, “I am so happy to win the case. The court stated that the government failed to fulfill its responsibility. I will keep working to help other victims of asbestos exposure.”

Parliamentarians of the Japanese Communist and other political parties on the same day jointly made representations to the welfare ministry to demand that the government make an apology and provide adequate compensation to all victims.


Past related articles
> High court orders state to compensate asbestos-damaged workers [December 26, 2013]
> Court orders state to compensate for asbestos-induced health claims [March 29, 2012]
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