Court rules Japanese man died of overwork

(AFP) - A Japanese court has ruled that a Toyota employee died of overwork after putting in more than 100 hours of overtime in one month.

It ordered the government to pay benefits to his widow, a court official said.

The Nagoya District Court ruled that Mr Kenichi Uchino, 30, had worked some 106 hours of overtime in the month before he died, after collapsing at a Toyota Motor Corp plant in February 2002.

His wife said long working hours caused her husband to develop an abnormal heart rhythm, but her application for bereaved family benefits was rejected by the Labour Ministry, which said the death was not due to overwork.

A local labour standards inspection office, which is part of the ministry, estimated Mr Uchino’s overtime during the month before his death was 45 hours.

But the court rejected the figure and upheld his wife’s claim for benefits. It ordered the local labour standards office to retract its decision, a court spokesman said.

Presiding judge Toshiro Tamiya said Mr Uchino “was so tired that he could not play with his children”, Kyodo News reported.

Toyota declined to comment on the ruling, saying the dispute was between Mrs Uchino and the government.

The car giant offered its “deepest sympathies” and vowed to make greater efforts to help employees stay in good health.

Critics say the problem of death from overwork, or karoshi, is worsening as Japan’s economy recovers from recession.