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Japanese court says overwork killed man

TOKYO – The Tokyo High Court has acknowledged an appeal filed by a woman in Matsumoto, seeking workers’ compensation for the death of her husband who died of a subarachnoid hemorrhage after taking 10 overseas business trips, totaling 183 days, during a one-year period.

The wife demanded that the Matsumoto Labor Standards Inspection Office should honor the insurance application for her husband’s death. The high court overturned a lower court ruling that had rejected the request.

Handing down the ruling Thursday, presiding Judge Kaoru Aoyagi said, “The number of hours worked as overtime or as overseas work was not that large per se, but the apparent accumulation of fatigue associated with these trips caused the death.”

According to the ruling, Toshihiko Inukai, an employee at Seiko Epson Corp. of Matsumoto, took the business trips in question to Asian and South American countries between November 2000 and September 2001, where he worked as a trainer, among other duties. Six days after returning from Indonesia, Inukai, 41, died in a hotel where he was staying during a domestic business trip.

Inukai worked fewer than 30 hours of overtime per month in the six months prior to his death. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry says the relationship between work and the development of an illness is considered weak if fewer than 45 hours of overtime are worked a month. The Nagano District Court therefore decided the relationship between the amount of overtime worked by Inukai and his death was tenuous.

However, the higher court pointed out that overseas business trips can cause irregular hours, and the pressure of dealing with different languages and customs might cause fatigue to accumulate, thus conceding a causal link between Inukai’s work and his death.


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