KYOTO – A court ordered the state and nine makers of building materials on Friday to pay ¥216 million ($1.8 million) in damages to former construction workers and their families for illnesses they developed after being exposed to asbestos at construction sites.
A total of 27 plaintiffs, including former workers who developed lung cancer and mesothelioma, had sought a total of ¥1 billion in damages from the state and 32 supply makers, saying the state knew of the need to take measures against asbestos exposure by 1971 and that the makers should take responsibility over asbestos products they made and sold.
In the first domestic court ruling to recognize the material makers’ responsibility from a series of similar damages suits filed over asbestos exposure, the Kyoto District Court ordered the makers to pay about ¥110 million to 23 of the 27 plaintiffs.
“It is highly probable that the construction materials sold by the makers” caused damage to the plaintiffs, the presiding judge, Kazumi Higa, said in handing down the ruling.
The court also ordered the state to pay about ¥100 million to 15 of the plaintiffs, saying it should have recognized by 1971 at the latest that the workers could develop illnesses by spraying asbestos.
The state has been ordered to pay damages in four earlier rulings over the use of asbestos-linked construction materials. The Osaka District Court on Jan. 22 held the state responsible while rejecting plaintiffs’ claims against the makers.
In the latest trial, the state argued it took proper measures against asbestos exposure at an appropriate time while the supply makers claimed the perpetrator cannot be specifically identified.