I was one of the many people who read today the news that KFC have been ordered to pay over £5M to a young lady for the brain damage she suffered as a consequence of salmonella poisoning allegedly picked up from a chicken wrap she ate at a KFC restaurant in Australia.
Now, two things stand out to me. Firstly is the size of the award. It seems very large. I have not been able to find much detail regarding the case, but this amount of money would lead me to suspect some level of extreme negligence, not just an accidental, isolated hygiene breach.
However, this is not the main thing that concerns me. It is not for me to judge the award of damages – the court should be trusted to know what it is doing.
No, the main issue I have is with what this case says about the blame culture we live in.
Consider, hypothetically, that there are two identical seven year old girls, both poisoned by badly cooked chicken. Both suffer severe brain damage as a consequence. It is clear in both cases that there was no deliberate intent to poison, but that the food was prepared and cooked negligently.
One girl gets £5M to compensate for the suffering, the other gets nothing. Why? Because one ate at a global restaurant chain, the other ate at home.
How is that just? How is it fair?
Instead of a compensation culture that encourages ambulance chasing and speculative law suits, how about a system where big companies are fined large amounts for negligence, but with smaller amounts of damages awarded to the individuals involved. Instead, the bulk of the money goes to support a state insurance fund to compensate all those who suffer from accidents, whomever is to blame. A lot of this is already in place in the UK, enshrined in National Insurance and the National Health Service – why not just bolster and extend these concepts?
Just an idea…