Judges uphold ruling to award Okinawans $8.4 million for Futenma noise
By MATTHEW M. BURKE AND CHIYOMI SUMIDA | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 2, 2016
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Judges have upheld a lower court’s ruling last year to award $8.4 million to a group of Okinawans who said they suffered from aircraft noise from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
Thursday’s decision came just weeks after judges awarded a separate group of plaintiffs $22.6 million for similar complaints.
The suit ruled on Thursday was filed in 2012 by 2,220 Okinawans seeking about $11 million for “intense” noise, sleep deprivation and psychological damage associated with living near Futenma.
In siding with the plaintiffs, a three-judge panel from the Naha Branch of Fukuoka High Court dismissed the Japanese government’s argument that some residents were aware of the noise when they moved to the area.
“Victims generally enter an affected area for certain personal needs and have no intention of taking advantage of pollution,” Chief Judge Toshiro Tamiya said in the decision.
If divided equally, the plaintiffs stand to collect nearly $4,000 each, before attorney’s fees. The Japanese government is responsible for paying.
After the ruling, the plaintiffs said they filed suit so their government would become aware of their plight.
“Dinner is interrupted by the noise, family conversation is interrupted and telephone conversation is interrupted,” said Kotaro Yakabi, 92, a leader for the plaintiffs. “This is a daily occurrence for us.”
In late November, a three-judge panel from the Okinawa City Branch of Naha District Court ruled that 3,417 residents were entitled to roughly $6,614 each over their Futenma noise complaints.
The panel declined those plaintiffs’ request to suspend flight operations at the air base, though the group has said it will appeal.