23 October 2004

Kenya: Del Monte Ordered to Pay Sh5m in Damage

Nairobi — The troubled Cirio Del Monte Company yesterday suffered a major blow after it was ordered to pay almost Sh5.5 million to three of its former employees who were exposed to toxic emissions from the factory.

Justice Michael Khamoni, sitting in Nyeri, pronounced judgement for the Sh5.7 million payout to three female employees.

The workers, Lucy Mweru Kibaki, Joyce Mwikali Metho and Rose Nduku King'oo had sued Del Monte following injuries sustained following emission of toxic gases at the pineapple-processing factory.

While delivering the judgement, Khamoni expressed concern over the repetitive occurrence of industrial accidents at Del Monte's Thika plant, which has led to numerous deaths.

"I have found no answer in the proceedings why those repetitions had to be even after some people lost their lives," he noted.

He ruled that it was the responsibility of the firm to take all precautions for the safety of its workers and not to expose them to risks, which the company knew or ought to have avoided.

He further said Cirio Del Monte should have provided competent staff and adequate as well as a suitably safe environment and equipment as well as proper working systems.

Mweru detailed her health tribulations, which started in March 2000 while working at the pineapple-processing factory in Thika. She has had health complications since inhaling some poisonous emissions from the factory.

She was admitted to the Central Memorial Hospital after suffering from diarrhea, abdominal spasms and a bloated abdomen.

She also told the court that she miscarried a five-month pregnancy thereafter and developed peptic ulcers.

The plaintiff further said after the exposure to the toxic waste, she had suffered distress owing to her reduced infertility and that her ulcers may require surgery.

The court found that after the exposure, Joyce Mwikali suffered emotional disturbances, which would require continuous medical attendance although her claims of miscarriage were disputed.

After evaluating the injuries suffered by each of the three, Khamoni ruled that Mweru be paid general damages totalling to Sh2,340,000 and Sh7,400 for special damages .

The court ordered that Mwikali should be paid Sh1,805,000 as an award for general damages, future medical costs and loss of amenities and Sh3,500 special damages.

Nduku King'ori, the court ordered, should be paid Sh1,6 56,420 as compensation for pain, loss of amenities and future medical costs.

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