Asbestos Lawsuits Becoming More Common in Japan
In the United States, the justice system has long recognized the rights of those who have been harmed by the negligence of others. Our legal system provides victims with the opportunity to file civil lawsuits seeking compensation for harm that has been done to them, and this has been at the root of the tens of thousands of mesothelioma lawsuits that have been filed against asbestos companies. Over the years, asbestos-based lawsuits have come to represent the largest mass tort in American history, and though some may criticize American society as being overly litigious, many other countries have begun to follow the United States’ lead. Most recently, the court systems in Japan have begun to widen the compensation available to victims of asbestos lawsuits, and the Kyoto District Court recently ordered the national government as well as asbestos companies that provided building materials to construction sites to pay over 200 million Yen to asbestos-affected workers and their families.
In a marked departure from the Japanese courts’ previous leanings on asbestos exposure, in the last four out of five asbestos lawsuits that have been filed, the Japanese courts have agreed with plaintiffs that the government bore responsibility for their illnesses, and handed down a decision requiring that compensation for damages be provided. In light of this trend, many are urging that a compensation system be put in place similar to that recently approved in the United Kingdom, in which the government approved a scheme that provides 123,000 GBP to asbestos victims who are unable to identify the employer or employer insurance company responsible for their exposure.
Previous decisions on the question of responsibility for health damages suffered by construction workers and others exposed to asbestos have been mixed. In some cases the national government was held responsible, but not building materials manufacturers. In other cases both have been cleared. Liability has been assigned based upon the failure to provide adequate protections such as protective masks for those working with the highly carcinogenic material.
In some cases, individual manufacturers have taken responsibility themselves, voluntarily. In one notable example, Kubota Corporation determined that one of their plants had caused asbestos-related diseases in both employees and nearby residents. The company created its own fund and scheme for providing compensation to those affected.
One of the problems in Japan is that those who have been sickened may not file lawsuits, despite being entitled to do so. Japan is struggling with how to meet its social responsibility to the many who have been afflicted with mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases.
In the United States, our justice system has created several ways that mesothelioma victims and others affected by asbestos-related disease can seek compensation for the damages that they have suffered.
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