Bangladesh Collapse Victims File Class-action Lawsuit Against Country, Three Retailers
One day before the two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Savar, Bangladesh, two of its victims filed a negligence and wrongful death class-action lawsuit.
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, lists JCPenney Corp., The Children’s Place, Wal-Mart Stores and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh as the defendants.
The two plaintiffs—Abdur Rahaman, filing on the behalf of his deceased wife, Sharifa Belgum, and Mahamudul Hasan Hridoy—noted the lawsuit aims to recover more than $5 million in damages for all workers injured and the families of those who were killed in the collapse.
Belgum, a 30-year-old mother of four, worked for New Wave Bottoms prior to the collapse as a third-floor operator, making approximately $155 a month, according to the lawsuit. Authorities discovered her partially decomposed body in the building's rubble four days after the collapse.
Hridoy, 25, worked at New Wave Style as a quality inspector. The collapse caused him head trauma, a fractured backbone and fractured ribs, and put him in a coma for 17 days, according to the lawsuit. His mobility now is limited and his pain is so severe he must walk with a cane. He also suffers from headaches and insomnia due to flashbacks from the collapse.
"Despite significant warning signs that the building was uninhabitable (including illegal construction and at least one warning from an engineer the day before the collapse), the manufacturing companies required employees to come into work," according to the complaint. "When the building collapsed early on April 24, 2013, 1,129 people were killed and approximately 2,515 people were injured. Many of the people killed and injured were women and children."
The suit claims Bangladesh is at fault for not properly inspecting the building, ensuring compliance with construction standards and ensuring safety for factory workers. Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza, allegedly only received clearance for a five-story building, but increased it to eight stories without proper authorization and constructed it with inadequate materials to withstand the number of employees and heavy machinery it needed to hold, according to the lawsuit.
As for the retailers, the suit alleges they failed to implement oversight mechanisms to ensure the health and safety of workers who manufactured clothing for their stores. The retailers also allegedly negotiate low subcontracts to maximize profits.
"The retailer defendants were also aware that the reason subcontractors could manufacture and supply these garments at such low costs was not only because the garment workers were paid extremely low wages, far below those that would be paid to employees in the United States, but also because the subcontractors often operated substandard and unsafe factories which put garment workers at significant risk of severe personal injury or death," the lawsuit said.