Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki has apologized to the plaintiffs in two suits in which the Supreme Court held the government responsible for failing to prevent factory workers from being exposed to asbestos.
“I offer my most sincere apology to everybody. . . . Some plaintiffs have died halfway through and I am deeply sorry,” he told a group of 12 plaintiffs and relatives of deceased workers who visited his office Monday.
The apology came after the top court ruled Oct. 9 for the first time that the government was responsible for failing to prevent factory workers from being exposed to asbestos.
The ruling finalized the Osaka High Court’s decision last December ordering the government to pay about ¥330 million in compensation to 30 plaintiffs who were either plant workers being treated for respiratory illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos or relatives of workers who have died of such illnesses.
In the other case, the Supreme Court reversed an Osaka High Court ruling in August 2011 rejecting the plaintiffs’ claims and sent the case back to the high court to determine compensation.
The government said last week it will promptly settle the pending suit and consider reaching a settlement with plaintiffs that have filed similar lawsuits as well as people who have suffered health problems as a result of working at asbestos factories in areas other than Osaka.
Shiozaki said at the time that the government is seeking to compensate former laborers who worked at asbestos factories between 1958 and 1971 and developed diseases caused by asbestos, as well as their families.