The Kyoto District Court has issued for the first time a ruling to convict asbestos manufacturing companies for responsibility on the lawsuits. The court decision represents a fifth one. Three out of the previous rulings found guilty of the state of Japan, but did not condemn business entities of the construction material. The New Socialist Party maintains that both of the state authority and manufacturing firms should immediately make apology to victims and take steps for redress.
MANUFACTURERS CONVICTED ? FIRST JUDGMENT OVER ASBESTOS
On January 29 the Kyoto District Court (Presiding Judge Higa Kazumi) gave a decision of guilty to the state and manufacturers of construction materials: it demands the former to pay in total 104.18 million Yen and nine of the latter party, 112.45 million Yen, respectively. The suit, Asbestos’ Victims in Kansai Area, was filed to the Kyoto District Court by 27 plaintiffs. They have won perfect victory.
Before life ends
The legal action was presented by construction workers and their families who condemned companies which had kept producing and selling the dangerous material as well as the state of Japan which had ignored appropriate regulations to stop its market distribution, and they demanded compensation for the damage. The workers had not been notified of danger of asbestos and a fact that the substance had been contained in the construction materials. They worked and inhaled dust, unaware of risks, which led them to contracting severe diseases, like lung asbestosis, fine chronic pleural thickening, lung cancer and mesothelioma. As is seen in a fact that sixteen out of the 26 victims died, the costs were extremely cruel. The plaintiffs have expected reparation before their lives end.
State is Responsible
The court blamed the state for its negligence of obligations: it should have ordered to let workers put on a dust mask and use electric tools equipped with a collector and informed to get alert. As for the blowing work, the state has overlooked the rules since October 1, 1972, the cutting work inside buildings, since January 1, 1974, and the same job in outdoors, since January 1, 2002.
This is the fourth of court decisions to convict the state authority, following ones issued by the district courts in Tokyo, Fukuoka and Osaka (January 22), which means the judiciary rightly condemns the government. The Kyoto decision also found guilty of the state for denial of risks pertained to jobs performed outdoor. Roof engineers/workers who work exclusively outdoors were covered to be redressed.
Though the decision rejected compensation for self-employed workers on account that they are not covered by the Industrial Safety and Health Act, the problems should be settled by legislative measures.
The court decision blames nine major asbestos manufactures, including A&A Material Corporation and NICHIAS Co., for joint illegal act, and for the first time it requested private firms to indemnify the damages. The companies had known of dangers, but continued to produce and sell asbestos items for their profits.
Let’s establish a fund
The ruling to convict business entities is epoch-making as it opens a path to redress victims. A favorable judgment is expected for the suit filed in Sapporo, Hokkaido. The case is scheduled to end in March and be ruled before the year-end.
A fund should be established to remedy victims immediately - a fund to be called Fund to Compensate Construction Workers/Victims of Asbestos. At the same time the state and the business should take comprehensive measures to prevent asbestos from scattering in the construction sites during jobs, like disassembling and remodeling of buildings, and prepare to eliminate devastation in the future.
February 16, 2016