Asbestos appeal rejected
TOKYO — The Japanese Supreme Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by former Japanese shipyard workers contracted to Yokosuka Naval Base who developed asbestos-related lung problems.
The decision finalizes a ruling made by the Tokyo High Court last year that tossed out a 64 million yen — about $600,000 — compensation award from a lower court to three workers and their families.
The workers were originally part of a 1999 lawsuit filed in Yokohama District Court by 17 plaintiffs that netted about 230 million yen — roughly $1.87 million. The government appealed the lower-court decision, claiming the 10-year statute of limitations to file suit had long expired for the three workers. It dropped the appeal for the others.
The Tokyo High Court overturned the decision last May, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.
“It is an extremely regrettable outcome. We wanted the Supreme Court to understand the patients’ long-standing sufferings,” said Takeshi Furukawa, the plaintiffs’ attorney.
The plaintiffs worked at the naval base from the 1950s to 1992, regularly handling ship pipes and other material that contained asbestos fibers. The workers claimed they were not provided respirators or told of the potential dangers.
The Supreme Court decision is the first involving an asbestos case on a U.S. military base. Two others are pending in Yokohama District Court.
In March, the Yokohama court recommended a settlement for the second case, which was brought by 22 plaintiffs, suggesting the government pay 300 million yen, about $2.7 million, to the workers.