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Air Quality

Japanese Automakers Settle Pollution Suit

11:29 AM EDT on September 5, 2007

Companies have been routinely penalized for deceptive behavior regarding the safety of products like lead, asbestos and tobacco. The Japan Times reports on the latest public health menace to be challenged in courtrooms:

133863851_f5a0cffb2d.jpgThe Tokyo High Court proposed Friday that seven automakers pay 1.2 billion yen to hundreds of asthma patients to settle a decade-long court battle over air pollution caused by emissions from diesel-powered motor vehicles in Tokyo.

Presiding Judge Toshiaki Harada gave the plaintiffs and defendants until July 12 to decide whether to accept the court-proposed compromise plan. The amount of settlement money proposed by the high court compares with 500 million yen the automakers earlier offered to pay.

Yahoo News reports that automakers have agreed to Judge Harada's proposal.  Perhaps this settlement will encourage car industries in countries outside Japan to address the health risks associated with their products:

The plaintiffs agreed to a court-mediated settlement to end an 11-year legal battle against seven automakers, which include industry giants Toyota, Honda and Nissan, and government bodies.

More than 520 Tokyo residents had filed the lawsuit, blaming diesel gas fumes for causing their asthma. The plaintiffs said about 110 people who were previously part of the lawsuit have already died of their illnesses.

Asthma patients have regularly held noisy protests outside the headquarters of Nissan and other automakers they accused of dragging their feet on the row.

Under the settlement, the automakers alone will pay 3.3 billion yen (28.6 million dollars) to underwrite a five-year health plan for the asthma patients. The automakers will also pay a one-time 1.2 billion yen to the plaintiffs.

Photo: Mil/Flickr

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