• Kyodo

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A settlement was reached Monday with 21 former Japanese workers at the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, in which the government will pay the workers 305 million yen in compensation for failing to protect them from asbestos dust.

Under a settlement pact recommended by the Yokosuka branch of the Yokohama District Court, the government will pay 14 million yen each to 20 of the 22 plaintiffs.

The beneficiary of another plaintiff, who died after the suit was filed in 2002, will receive 25 million yen. The remaining plaintiff will not be compensated because the 10-year statute of limitations on his case has expired.

“The settlement is a great achievement as the average age of the plaintiffs is now over 79 years old,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer said.

It is the first settlement among three lawsuits that have been filed against the government by former workers who developed pneumoconiosis, also known as black lung disease, from inhaling large amounts of asbestos dust while working at the base.

The plaintiffs said they believe Monday’s pact raises the chances another settlement will be reached on the third lawsuit, which was filed in July 2003 by 15 other plaintiffs. The court said Monday it will present a settlement recommendation Jan. 17.

The workers were hired by the government to work at the U.S. base. No measures were taken there to counter the health hazards of asbestos until around 1980.

In the first lawsuit, filed in 1999, the Tokyo High Court overturned the claims of some of the plaintiffs in May 2003 because the statute of limitations had expired. The ruling was upheld by the Supreme Court.

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