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SETTLEMENT ORDERED IN DEATH FROM OVERWORK

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A Japanese district court on Tuesday ordered a company running a private high school in western Japan to pay $123,000 compensation to the family of a teacher found to have died of a condition brought on by overwork.

The court decision came just a day after the Labor Ministry announced it will revise its definition of death by overwork, called "karoshi" in Japanese. It will make it easier for surviving families to gain the official recognition needed to obtain compensation from industrial accident insurance."There was a legitimate causal relationship between the teacher's overwork and his death," ruled the Okayama District Court. It said the school could have avoided the death if it held proper health checks.

School officials, however, rejected the court's claim.

"It was impossible to predict the occurrence of such a death," Japan's Kyodo News Service reported an official saying.

Karoshi is seen as a problem in Japan where middle-aged workers sometimes die after immensely long and taxing working conditions.

Yet companies and authorities have remained reluctant to admit karoshi deaths, fearing facing massive compensation claims.

Yoshiomi Tanaka, on whom the court ruled, was 44 when he suddenly collapsed during a meeting in November 1986 with a student's parents at Shimbi High School in Okayama Prefecture, about 340 miles southwest of Tokyo.

Tanaka died of a brain hemorrhage in a hospital 10 days later.

His wife, Akiko, 52, sued the company running the school in March 1990 to demand $403,600 in damages. She blamed the school's managers for failing to take necessary care to lighten his workload despite knowing he had high blood pressure.

At that time, Tanaka's blood pressure was chronic and he was made to work extra hours as acting school principal, the court said.