Thursday, June 26, 2008

U.S. Base Noise and Class Action Lawsuit

"OKINAWA -- The Okinawa branch of the Naha District Court on Thursday ordered the government to pay 392 plaintiffs roughly 146 million yen in compensation in a lawsuit over noise from the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.

"It was the first ruling over noise coming from mainly helicopters. The ruling granted compensation for damage that residents had suffered in the past, but rejected the plaintiffs demand for flights to be halted.

"The plaintiffs live in regions with high noise levels. In past lawsuits, judicial rulings granted damages on the basis that noise from military bases damages daily life. The focus in the latest case was the extent of relief for damage caused by helicopters though low-frequency and continuous noise.

"In the case, the plaintiffs said that the low-frequency range of noise from helicopters was larger than that from jet aircraft. They said that low-frequency sounds, which are harder to hear, caused loss of hearing and ringing in their ears.

"The government had argued against the claims, saying the causal relationship between low-frequency noise and damage to people's health and bodies had not been made clear.

"In response to the demand to halt flights, the government had stated that under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, the operation and management of airfields was entrusted to the U.S. military, and it would therefore not place any restrictions on take-offs and landings.

"A total of 396 residents filed a lawsuit in October 2002 against the government and the commander of the air station. The deliberations were divided up and in the lawsuit against the commander, the court rejected claims, saying there was no need to accept claims against the U.S. military. In February 2006, the resident's Supreme Court appeal against earlier decisions was dismissed."

By Mainichi Shimbun (6/26/2008), Link to article (last visited 6/26/2008)

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