Chinese Farmers Win Lawsuit, Claim Lung Damage

A landmark class action lawsuit in China results in 192 farmers being compensated for lung damage they suffered while digging a tunnel.

What is irreparable lung damage worth?

Some 192 farmers in China claim they deserve compensation for exposure to hazards, and a court agreed with them.

The farmers, from the eastern province of Zhejiang, were asking for $24.1 million in their landmark class action lawsuit. The court ruled they deserved compensation for lung disease the developed while they were employed by tunnel diggers.

The official newspaper of China, the China Daily, reports that the court awarded $27,400 for each death, with the sickest surviving farmers awarded $47,050. Although the smallest award was $4,700 - a minute amount by American compensation standards - but still more than many Chinese farmers earn in 10 years.

The 192 farmers involved in the lawsuit were hired in 1993 to dig a highway tunnel. During the course of their employment, the workers were exposed to silicon dust. The farmers claimed in their lawsuit that the engineering companies that hired them did not take steps to protect them from the dust.

The China Daily reports that a total of 196 farmers became ill, and 10 of them have died from lung disease. Four farmers were not included in the lawsuit.

China has one of the worst occupational safety records in the world. In recent years, the Chinese government has asked employers and managers to be more vigilant about safety. Lawmakers met recently in Beijing to discuss a law requiring employers to provide accident insurance and occupational health clinics for employees.

by Sandy Smith

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