OSAKA — The Osaka High Court on Thursday concluded deliberations on an appeal by the state and an expressway operator over a lower court ruling that residents of Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, be compensated for air pollution.
The court’s decision to conclude the appealed case after the first session indicated that it is likely to uphold the landmark ruling by the Kobe District Court in January that ordered the defendants to pay 210 million yen to 50 plaintiffs, as well as reduce vehicle exhaust emissions.
In concluding the case, the high court once again called on the government and the Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. to enter a court-mediated settlement.
Presiding Judge Keisaku Senoo said sufficient arguments and evidence have been presented in the more than 10 years since litigation began and in the eight months since the lower court’s ruling.
“Because the defendants wished to have the court rule in the case, instead of coming to the table of a settlement recommended by the court, it is our duty to conclude the case and to hand down the ruling without delay,” he said.
Senoo said the court would hand down a ruling by the end of the year but added that it wants the case to be settled through negotiation rather than by a ruling.
On Aug. 29, the high court recommended to both the plaintiffs and the defendants that the case be settled through negotiations, voicing its hope that pollution damage incurred this century be resolved within the century.
However, the state and the corporation were dissatisfied with the lower court’s ruling and refused to cooperate with the recommendation.
Fifty-one other plaintiffs who were not awarded compensation in the district court ruling also appealed the case to the high court but said they were willing to settle the case through court-brokered mediation.
In the Amagasaki pollution case, 483 people filed the suit in December 1988 against the state, Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. and nine industrial companies demanding 9.2 billion yen in damages and a reduction in exhaust emissions.
Another 14 people and the family of one person who purportedly died as a result of the pollution joined the suit seven years later.
The plaintiffs complained that they or their deceased relatives developed asthma and other illnesses due to harmful substances released by local factories and traffic.
The nine companies were released from the suit in February 1999 after reaching a court-brokered settlement.
The district court awarded the 210 million yen in damages to only 50 of the plaintiffs who live or work within 50 meters of Route 43 and the elevated Hanshin Expressway over the national road, where the pollution originated.
After Thursday’s hearing, Mitsuko Matsu, head of the plaintiffs’ group, said she was very pleased with the court’s decision to conclude the case.
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