OSAKA — The government filed a request Friday with the Osaka High Court, in an effort to reopen an appeal which resulted in a lower court ruling that the state and a highway operator pay compensation to residents of Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, for air polluted by vehicle exhaust emissions.
The move came in response to the high court’s decision Sept. 21 to conclude deliberations in the appeal after just one session, indicating it upholds the lower court’s view.
In January, the Kobe District Court ordered the defendants — the state and Hanshin Expressway Public Corp. — to pay 210 million yen to 50 plaintiffs and carry out measures to reduce vehicle exhaust emissions.
Whether the case will reopen is up to the court, but presiding Judge Keisaku Senoo has strongly indicated he would like a swift conclusion to the issue, and judicial sources said that chances of the trial resuming were slim.
The groundbreaking January ruling marked the first time in an air pollution suit for a court to recognize a link between health problems and suspended particulate matter. The district court ordered the defendants to cut SPM emissions to acceptable levels.
In August, ahead of the start of the appeal case, the Osaka High Court recommended that both parties come to the negotiating table, voicing its desire to see the problem resolved by the end of the year.
But while the plaintiffs expressed readiness to discuss a settlement, the state and highway corporation opted to fight the matter in court.
The defendants maintained during the first and final hearing in the appeal that there was no scientific proof linking health problems with exhaust emissions. They called for the trial to continue to March, but the judge said that all necessary evidence had been presented and he would strive to hand down a ruling by the end of the year.
At the same time, Senoo reiterated his desire for the two parties to strike a settlement.
In the Amagasaki pollution case, approximately 480 people filed suit in December 1988 against the state, Hanshin Expressway and nine industrial companies demanding 9.2 billion yen in damages and a reduction in exhaust emissions.
Another 14 people, along with the family of a person who purportedly died as a result of the pollution, later joined the suit.
The nine companies were released from the suit in February 1999 after reaching a court-brokered settlement.
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