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A court has ordered the Japanese government to pay about $786,000 to the family of a Japanese employee who died from an asbestos-related disease while working at Yokosuka Naval Base.

Judge Haruhiko Sakae of the Yokohama District Court in Yokosuka ruled Monday that both the Japanese government and U.S. Forces Japan — employer and user, respectively — neglected to take necessary precautions until 1987.

Hitoshi Taima began working at the base in 1977 and was exposed to asbestos while installing and maintaining air-conditioning units, according to Michitaka Hayashi, board member of the Yokosuka-based Pneumoconiosis and Asbestos Victim Relief Fund.

Taima was diagnosed in April 2006 with malignant mesothelioma caused by asbestos. A year later the Navy recognized his disease as a work-related illness, Hayashi said.

Taima filed a lawsuit in March 2007, based on the Special Civil Act under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement, demanding the Japanese government pay about $940,000 in compensation. The act states that, as employer, Japan is liable for worker accidents and health issues.

The ruling said that while the government was aware of health hazards caused by asbestos before 1977, it failed to take necessary precautions until 1987.

Taima died in 2007 at age 51.

Hayashi said Taima was the 42nd asbestos victim at U.S. military bases who was awarded compensation by Japanese courts.


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