High court holds state liable for asbestos exposure for first time


The Osaka High Court on Wednesday became the first high court to hold the government responsible for failing to prevent workers from being exposed to asbestos.

In a suit seeking ¥700 million in damages filed by 58 plaintiffs, including former asbestos spinning mill workers in southern Osaka Prefecture, the court also awarded more in damages than the Osaka District Court had in an earlier ruling.

The Osaka High Court ordered the government to pay ¥340 million in damages, nearly twice the ¥180 million awarded by the district court in March 2012.

Among the plaintiffs were 33 who worked at asbestos spinning mills or other places between 1947 and 1999, and who suffered from diseases, including asbestosis and lung cancer. Some of them are now deceased.

The plaintiffs claimed the government delayed implementing anti-asbestos measures, thus contributing to the former workers developing asbestos-caused diseases.

In another asbestos exposure case involving southern Osaka factories, the Osaka High Court in August 2011 reversed a district court ruling that had held the government responsible for a similar failure. That case is still pending before the Supreme Court.

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