The top court sent the case back to the Seoul High Court, raising the prospect that the late former Samsung worker, Lee Yun-jeong, could be recognized as an industrial disaster victim.
Lee died in 2012 at the age of 32. She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2010 after having worked at a Samsung semiconductor plant in central South Korea from 1997 to 2003.
"If the likelihood of developing a brain tumor at semiconductor workplaces like the one in this case is significantly higher compared with the average likelihood of developing the disease among all Koreans or among those in the age brackets similar to the deceased, it can work as a factor contributing to recognizing the causal relationship between the work and the disease," the court said.
"It cannot be concluded that there is no link between the work and the brain tumor just because the deceased was diagnosed with brain cancer seven years after leaving the company," it said.
Lee filed the suit in 2011 after the Korean Workers' Compensation & Welfare Service, a government agency that compensates industrial disaster victims, refused to cover her medical treatment, saying there was no link between her illness and the work carried out at the factory.
After her death a year later, her family took over as plaintiffs.
In the first trial, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of Lee, saying she developed the disease after prolonged exposure to harmful substances such as benzene, lead, formaldehyde and extremely low frequency magnetic fields.
It marked the first time a brain tumor was recognized as a work-related disease at a semiconductor plant.
But the Seoul High Court overturned the verdict, saying that there was no basis to believe that stress and overwork caused the brain cancer and that it's difficult to recognize the causal relationship between work and the disease in light of the fact that she was diagnosed with the disease seven years after leaving work. (Yonhap)