The High Court in Busia has started the pre-trial of a case where 58 residents accused giant beverages company Coca -Cola of selling them contaminated sodas suspected to have caused them ill health nine years ago.
The pre-trial started following a failed out-of-court settlement deal, which saw the group reject a Sh45,000 compensation package from the soft drinks company.
The petitioners—Stephen Serulo, Zablon Barasa and Richard Sikudi from Funyula – sued Coca -Cola and local based Equator Bottlers Limited on behalf of 55 others.
The petitioners claim they bought and drank sodas manufactured by the company separately and developed medical complications.
A medical examination on the victims who were subjected to respiratory, cardiovascular and abdomen tests, which was presented in court, revealed that they suffered from acute abdominal pains, passage of loose motions, nausea and vomiting with general body weaknesses.
Most of them were treated for food poisoning. Samples of the beverages collected from Funyula and tested by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) revealed that the products failed to meet required food standards.
In December 2018, Coca-Cola, through its advocate Anjarwalla and Khanna had requested the lawyers of the plaintiffs to consider the compensation package as final settlement to the matter.
““If they are ready, we propose to prepare and record a settlement agreement setting out the settlement terms.” read the firm’s letter.
On Monday, appearing before Justice Waweru Kiarie, two plaintiffs namely Nicholas Okumu and John Osiako were cross- examined by defence lawyers in a session that officially kick started the hearing of the case.
“Can you explain to this court why your medical report says you took Krest Bitter Lemon soda contrary to earlier submission where you said you drank Sprite?” lawyer Onyango, representing Coca-Cola, asked Mr Okumu.
Justice Kiarie adjourned the case till November 18 to allow plaintiffs to testify.