Man sued for smoking on his balcony

A 74-year old woman has sued her 61-year old neighbour for damages after cigarette smoke from his balcony drifted into her apartment upstairs and aggravated her health conditions.

Although the initial claim was for 1.5 million Yen in damages, the Nagoya District Court ordered the man to pay her 50,000 Yen (570 USD). It is quite unusual to see a case like this end up in court, and rare to see a plaintiff win a case for passive-smoking.

After moving into the apartment in Mizuho-ku, Nagoya, in 2010, the woman had complained several times to her downstairs neighbor about his smoking, but he continued to smoke outside.

The news of the judgement has led many apartment dwellers to worry about whether all smoking will be banned on balconies from now on.

In Japan, an apartment’s balcony is part of the building’s common area as its intended use is to provide a means of evacuation in an emergency. The apartment’s occupants, however, can use this space as if it was their own to hang washing, place furniture and potted plants, but must adhere to the building’s management association rules.

In the recent court case, the woman had repeatedly made requests to her neighbor, which were ignored.  As apartment buildings have many residents living in close quarters, there is an expectation that they show mutual respect for their neighbors.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, January 8, 2013.
J-Cast, January 9, 2013.

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