US Base Worker in Japan Gets Asbestos Compensation

The widow of a Japanese man who worked for more than 30 years as a boiler maker at the United States’ Kadena Air Base in Okinawa has received 22 million yen in a case against the Okinawa Defense Bureau.

According to the Kyodo News Service, the man – who was unnamed – serviced boilers at the U.S.-owned based from 1964 until his retirement in 1996. He died of mesothelioma in 2001 and his death was finally ruled an industrial accident in 2006.

After the ruling, in December 2006, the man’s widow filed a 30 million-yen suit against the Okinawa bureau, saying asbestos measures were insufficient at the U.S. base. This week, the Japanese Defense Ministry paid about 22 million yen ($194,700) in compensation to the bereaved wife.

“The bureau has admitted that the U.S. side and the Japanese government, which employs workers for U.S. bases in Japan, had neglected to take sufficient asbestos measures, and paid compensation,” the woman’s lawyer, Takeshi Furukawa, stated.

The lawyer told the media that “the case is significant in that it will pave the way for numerous U.S. base workers in Okinawa to seek redress from courts for asbestos-induced illnesses.”

Thirteen compensation payments have already been made to workers, or families of workers, at another U.S. base, Yokosuka Naval Base, under the bilateral Status of Forces Agreement, he said.

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