Some 58 people are accusing soft drinks giant Coca Cola of selling them contaminated drinks, in what promises to be one of the biggest consumer cases in Kenya.
On Wednesday, the High Court in Busia, in western Kenya, started pretrial of the case, in which the 58 local residents say they suffered ill-health after consuming the drinks nine years ago.
The residents and the company had been negotiating an out-of-court settlement but failed to agree on the Sh45,000 (approximately $444) compensation Coca Cola offered each.
Three petitioners — Mr Stephen Serulo, Mr Zablon Barasa and Mr Richard Sikudi from Funyula — have sued the Atlanta-based company, its Africa subsidiaries (Coca Cola Central, East and West) and local agent Equator Bottlers Limited on behalf of 55 others.
The petitioners say they bought soda separately on November 21, and that more than 30 people who took the drinks were from Funyula Constituency, while the rest came from other parts of Busia County.
They say some 60 patients were confirmed sick by then-Busia County Referral Medical Superintendent Sande Charo as a result of taking the drinks.
Two have since died, although their deaths were not related to the drinks.
The petitioners presented medical results in court showing that they suffered acute abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting, with general body weakness.
Most of them were treated for food poisoning and given antibiotics.
Samples of the beverages collected from Funyula and tested by the Kenya Bureau of Standards revealed that they did not meet the required food standards.
In December 2018, Coca Cola, through Anjarwalla and Khanna Advocates, requested the plaintiffs’ lawyers to consider the compensation package as a final settlement of the matter.
On Monday, two of the petitioners, Mr Nicholas Okumu and Mr John Osiako, appeared before Justice Waweru and were cross-examined by defence lawyers.
Mr Okumu was hard-pressed to explain why his medical report had contradictory statements on the type of drink he consumed.
He also could not explain why he sought medical attention two years after consuming the drink. The case was adjourned to November 18.