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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 February 7 - 13  > Court recognizes traffic death of interior plant service company worker as work-related
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2018 February 7 - 13 [LABOR]

Court recognizes traffic death of interior plant service company worker as work-related

February 9, 2018
The bereaved family of an interior plant service company worker on February 8 accepted a settlement mediated by the Yokohama District Court Kawasaki Branch in which the company agreed on the payment of 76 million yen in compensation for the worker’s death caused by overwork.

The company also promised to offer an apology to the worker’s family, manage employees’ working hours thoroughly, and introduce a system providing workers with at least 11 consecutive hours rest between shifts.

Watanabe Kota, who worked at the Kanagawa-based interior plant service company, Green Display Co., Ltd., died at the age of 24 in a motorcycle accident on his way back from work. His mother claimed that her son drove his motor scooter in a sleep-deprived stupor due to excessively heavy workloads which caused the fatal accident. She filed a damage suit against the company.

In the settlement document, the court recognized that Watanabe died in the accident because he suffered from severe fatigue and the lack of sleep after working excessively long hours. The court also pointed out that as the company instructed Watanabe to commute to work on his scooter, it should have taken measures to prevent an overwork-induced traffic accident.


Later in the day, at a rally held by the plaintiffs’ supporters in Kawasaki City, Kota’s mother, Junko, published a comment on the court-mediated settlement. She in the comment called for the eradication of death from overwork (karoshi) by saying, “It’s a great shame that Japan still allows karoshi tragedies to recur.” The gist of her comment is as follows:

Kota was 24 when he passed away. I, as a mother, had done everything for his education and looked forward to knowing what kind of business career he would pursue. He was my dream, my hope. I had never imagined that my hope would suddenly turn into despair.

My son just entered the working world. Why did my loved one have to lose his life? I wanted to know the reason, so, I filed a lawsuit on April 24, 2015 on the first anniversary of his death.

I’m glad that the court acknowledged that Kota caused the traffic accident because of excessive fatigue from overwork and that the company should be held responsible for the accident that killed him on his way from work. I welcome the company’s promise to take measures to prevent a recurrence of an overwork-related traffic accident. In particular, it promised to ensure that all employees can take at least 11 straight hours of rest between work shifts.

I hope that the company will implement preventive measures against incidents induced by excessive overwork in order to regain public trust and become a good example for other companies to follow.

It’s a great shame that Japan still allows overwork-related deaths to recur. We are working to live, not living to work. We long for freedom and happiness. In order to achieve this, we must stay alive.

Forcing workers to work to their full capacity and beyond is a wrong approach to boosting labor productivity. The need now is to create a society where people can work according to their abilities. Parliamentarians, judges, government officials, and the rest of us are required to exert our utmost efforts to come up with a way to create a Japan without karoshi. I believe that that is what my late son wants us to do for the good of future generations.
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