SYDNEY - Fast-food chain KFC has been ordered to pay $8.3 million (AUS$8 million) in damages to the family of an Australian girl who was left severely brain damaged and in a wheelchair after being poisoned by a chicken meal.
In 2005, Monika Samaan, then aged seven, her parents and her brother were hospitalized with salmonella poisoning after eating a "Twister" chicken wrap at a KFC restaurant near Sydney.
KFC, owned by Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, said it was a tragic case but was "deeply disappointed and surprised by the decision" and would appeal against it.
It had denied being responsible for the girl’s illness, challenging her family's claims during a four-week trial.
Last week, a New South Wales Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of the family, saying KFC had breached its duty of care to the girl. On Friday, it awarded the family A$8 million in damages, as well as court costs.
Australian media quoted their lawyer, George Vlahakis, as saying the girl's illness had "exhausted the very limited resources of the family".
"The compensation ordered is very much needed," Vlahakis said.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that, during a four-week trial in 2010, Monika's father Amanwial Samaan said he and his wife Hanna, son Abanou and Monika all fell ill with vomiting and diarrhea after sharing the Twister.
Unlike Monika, who was in a coma for six months and in hospital for seven months, they recovered.
Monika took the court action through her father, the newspaper reported.
KFC's lawyer, Ian Barker, QC, argued during the trial that there "never was a shared Twister" because there was no sales data to prove the family purchased it.
"You did not tell anyone at the hospital, when you were there between October 27 and 29, that you had shared a KFC Twister that Monday," Barker said in court in July 2010.
However, it reported that the trial also heard of hygiene practices at the restaurant that the family’s barrister described as "disturbing and unsettling."
News site news.com.au reported that the girl’s grandmother had been the only member of the family not to have shared the Twister and was not taken ill.
Experts at Westmead Hospital found Monika, her parents and older brother had a common strain of salmonella in their stools, although Monika's case was very rare.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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