KOBE – Asbestos released from a Kubota Corp. plant caused the death of a man who worked nearby, the Kobe District Court said in ordering the machinery maker to pay ¥32 million in damages to his family.
The man, Kojiro Yamauchi, worked some 200 meters from the plant in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, until 1975. He died of mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated especially with exposure to asbestos, in 1996, at the age of 80.
Presiding Judge Yoshihiro Konishi said Tuesday it was evident Yamauchi’s death was connected to the asbestos released from the plant. This is the first time Kubota has been held responsible for the death of a resident near the plant due to asbestos.
Relatives of Yamauchi and a woman who also died of the disease sued Kubota and the government for about ¥79 million in damages in total. In Tuesday’s ruling, the judge said the government was not obliged to pay damages because it is impossible to determine whether failing to draw up legislation to prevent the spread of asbestos in 1975 was illegal. The judge did not award damages to the family of the woman, who lived about 1 km from the Kubota plant. The plaintiffs plan to appeal the case.
In Yamauchi’s case, the judge noted the company had failed to keep its asbestos on the plant’s premises. Based on research into the distance from an asbestos source and the risk of developing mesothelioma, the judge concluded the carcinogen that entered Yamauchi’s workplace caused his disease.