Court dismisses Yokota Base noise suit against U.S.

The Tokyo District Court’s Hachioji branch on Mar. 14 dismissed a suit filed by residents living near the U.S. Yokota Air Base, seeking damages from the U.S. government for aircraft noise.

Presiding Judge Itaru Toyonaga rejected the damages suit against the United States, saying Japan has no jurisdiction over the U.S. and therefore the suit is inappropriate. A group of some 3,100 residents living in the neighborhood of the base, which is located in western Tokyo, are seeking 3.3 billion yen in damages from both the Japanese and U.S. governments and a ban on late night and early morning flights over the base.

The major point at issue was whether the Japanese court can exercise jurisdiction over a foreign government. The district court virtually gave the litigation short shrift without delivering a letter of the lawsuit to the U.S. side.

The plaintiff plan to appeal the dismissal to the Tokyo High Court. The group filed the suit last April, naming the U.S. government as a defendant for the first time in a damages suits involving U.S. bases. About the class action, the U.S. government informed the district court that it would not comply with Japanese jurisdiction.

At the opening session of the trial in February, the district court’s Hachioji branch decided to separately handle the two defendants — the Japanese and U.S. governments. In the suit, the plaintiffs were seeking an injunction against flights between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. over Yokota Base. They were also demanding that the two governments pay a uniform 800,000 yen in damages for aircraft noise the plaintiffs had suffered in the past, in addition to compensation until such aircraft noise desists.