A judge has ruled that fast food chain KFC is responsible for the brain damage of a young girl who was left paralysed by food poisoning.
In a judgement made on Saturday, Judge Stephen Rothman said Monika Samaan, who was seven years old when she got salmonella poisoning from chicken Twister wrap, was permanently disabled through negligence by KFC.
When she ate the food in October 2005, Samaan suffered salmonella encephalopathy, – a brain injury linked to food poisoning – and subsequently ended up with a blood infection and septic shock.
The girl suffered cognitive, motor and speech impairment, and went into a coma in hospital, which the family says is the direct result of the chicken chain’s actions.
They say several other family members also fell ill as a result of eating food from the Villawood KFC the same day.
The Supreme Court ruled in the family’s favour, after it concluded "a KFC Twister… consumed predominately by Monika and in lesser quantities by her family," made her ill.
According to Justice Rothman the chicken was contaminated "because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC" to follow preparation and handling rules.
He labelled the actions of these employees as "negligent,” but acknowledged they were not aware of how they could impact consumers.
"There is some evidence, which I accept, that some employees were unaware of the full consequences of a breakdown in the system that was to be implemented," Rothman said in his judgment.
"Nevertheless, the conduct of the employee was negligent and KFC, as the employer, is vicariously liable for the negligence."
Rothman referred to an assessment conducted at the premises prior to Samaan’s illness, which criticised the hygiene and food preparation standards, and testimonies by some staff members that they would throw food around as a joke, drop chicken on the ground and handle food without gloves on, in his findings.
"The evidence was consistent that the standards set by KFC were not met during the latter half of 2005," Rothman said.
"The contamination has occurred because of the failure of one or more employees of KFC to adhere to that procedure."
Compensation will be determined in a separate hearing, with Rothman saying the fallout from the food poisoning was “most rare.”
"She is now intellectually disabled, is unable to function independently, she needs total care and she will be unable to live a life filled with normal activities, relationships, milestones and achievements," he said.
"The plaintiff has been severely disabled at a very young age and as a result of her injuries, it is clear she will never enjoy the normal life that was expected of her prior to this catastrophic event."
KFC has confirmed it will appeal the decision.
"We believe the evidence showed KFC did not cause this tragedy and, after reviewing the judgment and seeking further advice from our lawyers, we have decided to appeal Justice Rothman’s decision," KFC Australia spokeswoman Sally Glover said.
"We feel deeply for Monika and the Samaan family however we also have a responsibility to defend KFC’s reputation as a provider of safe, high quality food."
Image: The Samaan family. Credits: Adam Ward, Herald Sun.