The Tokyo High Court ruled Thursday that a 22-year-old man developed chemical sensitivity syndrome from using an electric heater and ordered major retailer Ito-Yokado Co., which sold the appliance, to pay about 5.5 million yen in damages.
The ruling reverses the Tokyo District Court’s March 2005 denial that a causal link existed between use of the heater and the syndrome the Tokyo university student developed in 2001.
“As Ito-Yokado says on a daily basis that it tries to guarantee the safety of its products, the company had a duty to inspect and confirm the hazardousness” of the heater, presiding Judge Masateru Yokoyama said.
“Ito-Yokado had received complaints about a strange odor, and thus could have anticipated the health damage.”
It is rare for a court to recognize a causal link between health damage and an electrical appliance and to hold a retailer, not the maker, responsible, the man’s lawyers said.
The heater was made by a Taiwanese company and then imported to Japan by the company’s Japanese subsidiary.
A total of 220,000 units were sold in Japan between 2000 and 2001 by retailers, including Ito-Yokado, a unit of Seven & I Holdings Co.
The Japanese subsidiary received 38 complaints about the heater and the product is no longer for sale.
An Ito-Yokado official said the company intends to appeal the ruling.
According to the high court, the man used the heater for several hours every day in his room for about a month from January 2001 when he was a high school student.
He then started suffering numbness in his limbs and breathing difficulties, and still suffers chemical sensitivity syndrome, the court said.
An inspection body found that a toxic substance is emitted from resin in the heater’s heating units, which reach temperatures of about 280 degrees, the court said.
The man and his parents had demanded that Ito-Yokado pay 100 million yen in damages, but the district court rejected the demand, denying a causal link between the heater and the syndrome.
The plaintiffs have also filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the subsidiary as well.
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