• Kyodo News

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Seven makers of diesel cars have informally offered to settle out of court with asthma sufferers in Tokyo, but the plaintiffs say they are not ready to accept the payments because the amount offered is too small, the plaintiffs’ lawyers and the manufacturers said Monday.

The proposed amount is less than 1 million yen per plaintiff, compared with the standard in past air pollution cases of around 5 million yen to 7 million yen, according to Takao Nishimura, one of the lawyers. The total amount is estimated to be in the range of several hundred million yen.

“More than 1 billion yen would be needed to cover lawsuit expenses paid so far as well as outlays for a consultation body to be set up based on compensation, leaving nothing in payout to the plaintiffs,” Nishimura said.

Since the lawsuit was first lodged in 1996, about 630 people have joined the action, seeking a total of 14.8 billion yen in compensation from the central government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the seven carmakers and a Tokyo highway operator.

The parties involved in the lawsuit have been holding negotiations to reach a settlement since the Tokyo High Court recommended such a solution last September.

The offer by the carmakers came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he told Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara that the central government intends to offer 6 billion yen to the metropolitan government for its asthma prevention programs as part of its move to reach a settlement.

In October 2002, the Tokyo District Court acknowledged seven of the original 99 plaintiffs as having developed asthma due to gas emissions from diesel vehicles and ordered the central government, the former Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp. and the Tokyo government to pay them a combined 79 million yen.

The court dismissed the plaintiffs’ demands against the seven diesel carmakers.

The plaintiffs and the central government were among those that appealed the lower court ruling.

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