Joe Fresh is in some serious hot water in connection with the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse that killed nearly 1,120 people and seriously injured 2,510 more in Bangladesh. As of this week, a proposed class action lawsuit has been filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, seeking to sue Canada-based Joe Fresh for $2 billion for its role in the 2013 garment factory collapse. The lawsuit alleges that Joe Fresh’s parent company, alleges Loblaw Companies Limited, knew that Bangladesh had a history of unsafe working conditions but failed to conduct proper inspections and audits in Rana Plaza.
The four named plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Joe Fresh: three garment workers — Arati Rani Das, a 19-year-old who lost a leg in the collapse; Rehana Khatun, a 20-year-old who lost both of her legs; Mohammed Alauddin — and Kashem Ali, who lost both of his sons in the collapse. They are seeking damages for wrongful death and injury of $1.85 billion plus punitive damages of another $150 million. According to the complaint, Loblaw was aware there was a “significant and specific risk” to workers who made Joe Fresh clothing employed by New Wave, a garment company located in Rana Plaza.
Joel Rochon, counsel for the plaintiffs, spoke about the recently filed suit, claiming it aims to hold the Ontario-based companies legally responsible for the injuries and deaths of workers “who were employed in extraordinarily unsafe working conditions. When Canadian companies contract out manufacturing to take advantage of extremely low wages, they must ensure that the working conditions for those employees are safe.”
Kevin Groh, vice-president of corporate affairs at Loblaw Companies Ltd., said in a statement: “We believe that this claim is without merit and intend to vigorously defend our position.” Groh said he hoped “this claim does not distract from the positive work Loblaw has done and continues to do in respect of this tragedy — and that it does not discourage others from making similar contributions.” He noted Loblaw is working to improve working standards in Bangladesh and has already directed $5 million to voluntary relief related to Rana Plaza.
A similar lawsuit was filed in federal court Washington, D.C. against J.C. Penney, The Children’s Place and Walmart, all of which were sourcing garments from factories in Rana Plaza. More to come …