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Naval base worker’s family wins asbestos case award

Date Posted: 2009-07-09

The family of a Japanese man who worked at the Yokosuka Naval Base, where he was exposed to asbestos and later died, has been awarded ¥77 million in damages by the Yokohama District Court.

Hitoshi Taima began working at the U.S. installation in 1977, being exposed to asbestos insulation over an 18-year period as he set up air conditioners. He was first diagnosed with mesothelioma in April 2006, and died in May 2007. The 51-year-old Taima filed a lawsuit against the state based on a U.S. Navy decision acknowledging his case as injury and illness resulting from doing his job.

Haruhiko Sakae, the Judge at the Yokosuka branch of the Yokohama District Court in Kanagawa Prefecture ruled the U.S. forces and Japanese government neglected safety obligations to employees by not requiring workers to wear protective masks, or take other safety measures. Judge Sakae said the government was fully aware of asbestos-related health hazards even before Taima began working at the base more than three decades ago.

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