LOS ANGELES – A 1951 peace treaty between the U.S. and Japan bars former American and Allied prisoners of war from seeking compensation for their alleged torture and abuse as slave laborers during World War II, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled Thursday.
It was the first ruling handed down in a series of similar lawsuits filed under a California law, under which former slave laborers used by Japanese industries can sue Japanese companies as long as the companies conduct business in the state.
The lawsuits were filed against Mitsubishi Corp., Nippon Steel Corp., Mitsui & Co. and other major corporations.
According to court documents, Walker said, “Plaintiffs’ claims arise out of world war and are enmeshed with the momentous policy choices that arose in the war’s aftermath.”
Since August 1999, former POWs and slave laborers from the U.S. and other countries, including China, South Korea and the Philippines, have used the law, which enables them to bring their cases to state courts.
During the legislative process, many of the cases originally filed in state courts were consolidated and moved to federal court.
Over 30 cases have been filed under the California law. Currently, four cases remain in the state courts in Los Angeles and Orange County.
In Thursday’s hearing, Walker did not decide on the remaining cases, which involve Chinese, South Korean, Filipino and Dutch civilians seeking redress.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs of the American and Allied POWs filed a motion for reconsideration. A date for that hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 13.
“We remain confident in the merits of our cases and that the judge will allow them to move forward once he reviews our motion,” attorney David Casey said in a statement.
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