Top court grants workers’ comp over ulcer surgery

The Supreme Court granted workers’ compensation Tuesday to a trading house employee who underwent surgery for a peptic ulcer during an overseas business trip even though he had been diagnosed with the disorder before the trip.

The top court’s No. 3 Petty Bench granted the compensation to the 52-year-old worker from Ashiya, Hyogo Prefecture, overturning lower court rulings that denied compensation on grounds that he had already developed the malady.

Legal experts said it was unusual for courts to recognize such cases as labor-related accidents because peptic ulcers can recur naturally and are difficult to link with working conditions.

Presiding Justice Kunio Hamada said the ulcer was aggravated due to stress caused by daily business negotiations and after-hours business contacts during the trip.

Justice Hamada said in handing down the ruling: “Objectively, the business trip was excessively heavy work for the plaintiff, as he had been subject to unusually strong psychological and physical strain compared with ordinary work at home.

“There was no other cause for the ulcer than such strain, and it is natural to think the underlying malady had deteriorated beyond the natural process after (the worker) performed excessively heavy tasks during the business trip.”

According to the court, the worker was ordered by his company to accompany clients on the business trip to six Asian countries and territories between Nov. 26 and Dec. 9, 1989, after he finished a business trip to four locations in Japan between Nov. 20 and 24 the same year.

He suffered ulcer-related problems during the trip abroad and was hospitalized and underwent surgery in Hong Kong.

The lower courts did not acknowledge the acute stress the worker had during the business trip, denying that the disorder was actually caused by the worker’s business activities.

It said they could not deny the possibility that the man suffered a recurrence of the ulcer after he failed to receive treatment.

The man’s name has been withheld out of consideration for his privacy.