Osaka asbestos exposure case ruling appealed

OSAKA (Kyodo) The government filed an appeal Tuesday with the Osaka High Court against a lower court order that it pay around ¥435 million in damages to 23 people for failing to take safety steps against asbestos exposure in southern Osaka Prefecture.

The plaintiffs also plan to appeal by the Wednesday deadline, their lawyers said.

The Osaka District Court ruled May 19 that the government was responsible for failing to take safety measures against asbestos exposure in the Sennan region, where a number of spinning mills were concentrated.

It ordered the government to pay damages to the 23 former workers, who developed asbestos-related diseases, and the families of deceased workers. The district court rejected damages claims from three other plaintiffs who resided near the mills.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Akira Nagatsuma and Environment Minister Sakihito Ozawa had expressed hope that the government would not file an appeal, but they met opposition from other Cabinet ministers.

On Monday, state minister for national policy Yoshito Sengoku said the government would take the case to a higher court, noting the district court ruling contains many points of contention and the workers have already received compensation under labor accident compensation insurance.

The district court held the government responsible for failing to take safety measures against asbestos exposure. Similar suits are pending in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe.