• Kyodo

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The mother of a 51-year-old man who died when part of the Hanshin Expressway collapsed in the January 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake reached an out-of-court settlement Monday with the expressway operator.

Michiko Yorozu, 80, had been seeking 92 million yen from the Hanshin Expressway Public Corp., saying it had failed to properly position and manage the expressway, leading to its collapse in the temblor, which left more than 6,400 people dead.

The case was being heard at the Osaka High Court.

According to sources familiar with the settlement, there will be no payment of money, and Yorozu will retract the lawsuit.

The expressway will again convey its condolences over the death of Eiji Yorozu. It will also confirm that it will make efforts to improve its expressway network to make it more earthquake-resistant, based on scientific knowledge learned through the lawsuit.

Lawyers for Yorozu said the court told both sides to consider an out-of-court settlement in January because the plaintiff was getting old and certain elements of what the suit aimed to secure had been achieved with renovation work to the expressway network to make it more earthquake-proof.

Sixteen people died when a section of the expressway collapsed. In December 1996, the expressway operator offered to pay the next of kin of each victim 12 million yen over 10 years in return for their opinions for its publications, but Yorozu refused. In January 1997, she filed the damages lawsuit, saying her main objective was not money but to learn the truth behind the accident.

In January 2003, the Amagasaki branch of the Kobe District Court rejected the lawsuit, saying there was no evidence of a physical problem with the expressway, and that it had met all strength requirements. Yorozu appealed the ruling.

Yorozu said Monday that while she was disappointed that she was unable to extract a ruling from the appellate court, she was confident that she had done the best she could. “If I were 10 years younger, I might have continued the lawsuit,” she said. She said she had no personal grudge against the expressway operator.

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