The Supreme Court ruled for the first time on the 17th in a class action in which about 1,200 former workers and bereaved families are seeking compensation from the government and building material manufacturers for inhaling asbestos at construction sites all over the country and getting lung disease. I will tell you.

As the number of people complaining about the health hazards of asbestos is expected to increase in the future, the focus will be on whether the Supreme Court will make a decision that will lead to relief from the damage.

Approximately 1,200 former workers and bereaved families sought compensation from the national government and building material manufacturers for inhaling asbestos from building materials at construction sites nationwide and suffering from diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. It was raised one after another in courts nationwide from the year.

Of these, the Supreme Court will hand down the first judgment on the 17th regarding the trials filed in the four district courts of Yokohama, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.

In response to both appeals, the Supreme Court has decided to dismiss some of the appeals since December last year, recognizing the liability of the government and building material manufacturers, but has not disclosed the reason.

For this reason, the ruling on the 17th is expected to show a unified judgment for the first time.

Regarding asbestos damage to construction workers, about 500 to 600 former workers are still certified as industrial accidents and bereaved families are paid benefits every year, but the incubation period until the onset is long. Therefore, it is expected that the number of people who complain of health damage will continue to increase, and the focus will be on making decisions that will lead to relief from the damage.

The judgment will be handed down at 3 pm.

History of construction asbestos class proceedings

In 2008, the first proceedings were filed in courts in Tokyo and Yokohama in a class action proceeding in which former workers and others sought compensation from the government and building material manufacturers for suffering asbestos health damage at a construction site.

According to the lawyers, 17 class action proceedings have been filed nationwide, and about 1,200 former workers and bereaved families have been sued.

Former workers complained that the country was aware of the dangers of asbestos and neglected safety measures such as requiring the wearing of protective masks and banning the manufacture of building materials using asbestos, as well as building materials containing asbestos. It also claims to have neglected its obligation to warn the manufacturer of the danger.

After the Tokyo District Court first admitted that the country was liable for damages in 2012, similar judgments were made one after another by district courts and high courts all over the country.

In addition, the liability of building material manufacturers was first recognized by the Kyoto District Court in 2016.

The Kyoto District Court recognizes liability for damages based on an unusual certification standard that orders nine manufacturers with a high share in the industry to compensate, and after this judgment, there are judgments in various places that order manufacturers to compensate based on similar standards. it is continuing.

Supreme Court hearing status

Of these, four class actions filed in the district courts of Yokohama, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto were appealed to the First Small Court of the Supreme Court.

In all four cases, the responsibility of the state was recognized in the second instance, and the Supreme Court decided to dismiss the state's appeal in the three cases of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto since December last year, and the state's compensation. Responsibility has already been established.

In addition, some have confirmed that multiple building material manufacturers with a certain share or more are liable for damages.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has accepted the appeals of the former workers, the government, and the manufacturers regarding the remaining former workers, and has held an argument to hear the opinions of both parties since October last year.

"When the country neglected to take measures" and "subject to liability" are issues

The main issue at the Supreme Court's hearing was when and when the country was aware of the dangers of asbestos and neglected necessary measures such as obliging them to wear masks to prevent inhalation. Whether or not the so-called "single master" who undertook the work individually and worked at the site was also regarded as a worker and included in the liability of the national government.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a unified judgment on these issues for the first time in its ruling.

The Supreme Court's ruling will affect the ongoing class action proceedings across the country, as well as the victim relief measures being considered by the state.

Health damage caused by asbestos The whole picture is unknown

The full extent of the health hazards caused by asbestos is unknown due to its peculiarities, such as the widespread use of asbestos in large quantities and the long incubation period before the onset of lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The number of victims will continue to increase to tens of thousands, and it is expected to be the worst health hazard in Japan.

Long incubation period “quiet time bomb”

It is known that asbestos has extremely fine fibers, and when it is taken up in large quantities in the lungs, it accumulates and develops lung cancer and mesothelioma.

It is called a "quiet time bomb" because it has a long incubation period of 10 to several decades before the onset, but many people die in a short period of 1 to 2 years after the onset.

According to the lawyers, about 70% of the former workers who filed the trial have already died.

It is believed that many people died without being aware of the damage and without receiving any compensation, and even if they have no symptoms now, they may develop the disease in the future, and the number of victims is estimated to be tens of thousands.

Widespread damage

Asbestos has been used in many buildings nationwide for many years as a building material with excellent heat insulation performance and low price.

In 2014, the Supreme Court recognized the national liability for damages to the health of employees of factories of building material manufacturers that manufactured asbestos, and compensation has been paid.

The scale of damage is greater than that of asbestos in manufacturing plants, which is the damage caused by asbestos at construction sites, which is being contested this time.

Until the production and use of asbestos was completely banned in 2006, many workers were exposed to a large amount of asbestos at construction sites and demolition work sites nationwide.

Unlike the "four major pollution diseases" such as Minamata disease, Yokkaichi asthma, and Itai-itai disease, where the damage was concentrated in a specific area, asbestos was used nationwide, and the situation of the construction site at that time and the building materials used were used. It is difficult to identify all of them, and it is difficult to clarify the whole picture of the damage.

Increasing number of victims

According to a summary by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Ministry of the Environment, the number of former workers who have been recognized as industrial accidents due to health damage caused by asbestos and the bereaved families who have received benefits has risen to more than 31,000.

There are still more than 1,000 people who are recognized as industrial accidents due to asbestos health damage every year, and the largest number by industry is those related to the construction industry, which is about 500 to 600 people.

Voice for early relief

Thirteen years have passed since the first class action lawsuit was filed in 2008 regarding asbestos damage at construction sites, and during this time, many plaintiffs died without compensation.

With this Supreme Court's first ruling, the judicial move to bail out victims marks a break.

Meanwhile, lawyers continue to call for a system to promptly receive compensation without having to file a trial.

Prior to the ruling, the Supreme Court's decision in December last year confirmed the country's liability, and the country is considering remedies for victims.

In addition, the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito's countermeasure teams will also ask the government to pay settlement money to former workers who are suing in trials nationwide, and will also provide benefits to victims who have not participated in the trials. We are aiming to establish a system.

From now on, the focus will shift to what kind of remedies will be taken based on the judgment of the Supreme Court.

Plaintiff's woman "'I want you to return the two'that's it"

Haruko Osaka (77), one of the plaintiffs who lives in Saitama Prefecture, had her husband Kaneko (65 at the time) in 2003 and her son Makoto (46 at the time) in 2014. , Died one after another due to "mesothelioma".

Mr. Osaka was a carpenter with his family, but in 2002, Mr. Kaneko suddenly complained of severe physical pain and his condition suddenly worsened, and he died in May 2003.

Kaneko told Haruko, "I just thought I was working hard and earnestly, but I wonder why I got this kind of illness."

About 10 years later, Makoto, the son who supported Haruko after Kaneko's death, also suddenly complained of physical pain and was diagnosed with "mesothelioma."

Makoto, who died at the young age of 46 in March 2014, told Haruko that "I don't want to die yet" and "I still have a lot to do."

Haruko, who worked at the same site as Kaneko and Makoto, who died of mesothelioma, also faces the fear of "I don't know when I will develop it."

However, he says he still doesn't want to get sick for the two who died.

Mr. Kaneko's trial, which he filed in 2008, took 13 years, and the Supreme Court handed down the decision on the 17th. I filed a lawsuit against Makoto last year.

Haruko Osaka wouldn't have lost the lives of the two if the government and manufacturers were aware of the dangers of asbestos and took measures. He says he wants to see the day when the country and manufacturers acknowledge responsibility, apologize in good faith, face the victims, and reach a full resolution.

Mr. Osaka said, "I don't want money, I just want you to return the two. I know it's strange, I can't come back. But I apologize with a proper attitude. I can't give a good report to them unless they ask me. I don't know how many years it will take, but I'd like to have a full resolution day while I'm alive. "