Japanese Plaintiffs Launch Class-Action Asbestos Suit

The largest asbestos -related lawsuit in Japanese history was launched this week at the Tokyo District Court. A group of 178 construction workers and their relatives are requesting 6.6 billion yen ($61 million US) in compensation. The suit seeks compensation from 46 manufacturers of construction materials as well as the Japanese government for failing to protect them from the hazards of asbestos contamination despite knowing of the health hazards that asbestos exposure presents. Many of the construction workers and family members testified before the court, reporting their health struggles with diseases including asbestosis , lung cancer , and malignant mesothelioma . The plaintiffs noted that the government and the materials manufacturers were aware of the health risks from asbestos as far back as 1955, and claim that they were treated unjustly and as “unworthy of proper care”.

Most of the plantinffs are construction workers, carpenters, and plasterers who worked in the Tokyo, Chiba, and Saitama prefectures, and their family members. 84 of the plaintiffs have already died from illnesses caused by exposure to asbestos . The defendants in the case have not yet made a statement to the court, but have indicated that they will be fighting the claims and asking the court to dismiss the case. Each plaintiff is seeking 38.5 million yen (about $350,000 US) as well as improved medical care. The Japanese Diet (national legislature) passed a law in 2006 which gives asbestos victims a monthly allowance of 100,000 yen ($928 US) for medical treatment. The plaintiffs have said that this does not cover their expenses.