National / Crime & Legal

Government agrees to pay damages to asbestos workers after Supreme Court win


The central government has said it will settle a pending asbestos suit brought by Osaka Prefecture factory workers and their families, after the Supreme Court ruled in their favor earlier this month.

It said it would consider also settling with plaintiffs who have filed similar lawsuits elsewhere and with all people who suffered health problems as a result of their work at asbestos factories during the period the Supreme Court ruled on.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki told a news conference Tuesday that the government would compensate employees of asbestos factories between 1958 and 1971 who later developed asbestos-related diseases, as well as their families.

The move came after the Supreme Court ruled Oct. 9 in two suits that the government failed to mandate workplace protection for asbestos factory workers in Osaka’s Sennan area. It sent one of the suits back to the Osaka High Court for determination of damages.

“Once again, I want to express my deep apology to the plaintiffs who have faced hardship because of the long trial,” Shiozaki said. “Some plaintiffs have died, and I am deeply sorry.”

The minister also said he plans to meet with the plaintiffs to apologize to them.

The government will offer to settle the suit pending at the Osaka High Court and will encourage other individuals with asbestos-related conditions that date from their work between 1958 and 1971 to file for damages, paying them compensation in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling.

It will also examine the possibility of settling two similar damages suits brought by people in Saitama and Hyogo prefectures.

But Shiozaki said the payouts will not cover suits filed by former construction workers who developed asbestos-related diseases after handling construction materials containing asbestos, about which the top court has yet to make a decision.

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