FRANKFURT: A German court Thursday threw out a lawsuit by Pakistani plaintiffs against clothing retailer KiK over a deadly 2012 fire at a Karachi garment factory, saying the statute of limitations had expired.
The blaze at the Ali Enterprises factory, which was started deliberately, killed 258 people in one of Pakistan´s worst industrial disasters.
A survivor and three relatives of victims had sought damages for pain and suffering from KiK of 30,000 euros ($34,600) each.
They argued that, although KiK did not cause the fire, it shared blame for a lack of safety measures at the factory.
But a spokesman for the regional court in Dortmund said judges agreed with a court-appointed expert´s finding that the civil suit was not filed within the applicable two-year period.
The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), a Berlin-based rights group supporting the plaintiffs, said it was considering appealing the ruling.
“KiK was the factory´s main customer and therefore bears some of the responsibility for the inadequate fire safety measures,” lawyer Remo Klinger, who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
KiK, which has paid over $6.0 million in compensation to survivors and victims´ families, has rejected liability for the fatal fire.
“KiK evades the legal responsibility for the death of 258 people, but at least a German court was willing to look into the case in the first place,” said claimant Saeeda Khatoon, whose son died in the inferno.
A lack of emergency exits, fire extinguishers and clearly marked escape routes contributed to the fire´s heavy toll, according to experts cited by the ECCHR.
Several men are currently on trial in Pakistan for allegedly starting the blaze. They are suspected of being part of a criminal gang that was extorting the factory´ owners.
The fire, along with other fatal incidents at garment factories in low-wage Asian countries in recent years, has fuelled debate about the true cost of cheap, so-called fast fashion.
KiK, a household name in Germany, boasts on its website that it can dress its customers from head to toe “for less than 30 euros”.__The News