A German court on 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 the 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 $6.0mn 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 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”.