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The relation between law and technology in Japan : liability for technology-related mass damage in the cases of Minamata disease, asbestos, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster

There are two aspects to the relation between law and technology. While on the one hand law promotes the development of technology, on the other it regulates its application and use especially regarding the protection of health and property. Japan has experienced many cases of technology-related mass damage, including the well-known examples of Minamata disease, the negative effects of asbestos on public health, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. In the 1960s, industrial pollution was the cause of widespread instances of damage to public health. This triggered a series of lawsuits which developed into a whole new area of tort law. In these cases of industrial pollution, it was established that private companies as polluters bear legal responsibility for the harm they caused. Since the 1980s, tort law has seen a new level of development: legal responsibility is no longer restricted to the direct polluter exclusively but has been expanded to include the State as the regulator. This article focuses on the relationship between the regulatory and promotive functions of technology-related law based on an analysis of the Minamata disease, asbestos, and Fukushima Daiichi disaster cases.

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Contemporary Japan

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