Erie couple is suing KFC

Lawsuit says salmonella infected kids

An Erie couple has sued KFC restaurants claiming their two small children became infected with salmonella and one later required surgery after eating popcorn chicken at a Lafayette restaurant last year.

The chicken dish was meant to be a treat for Gianni, 1, and Kiley, 2, for their behavior during a Jan. 6, 2002, trip to a local mall, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Boulder District Court.

Three days after eating the chicken, Gianni was hospitalized at a Louisville hospital. Two months after visiting the Lafayette KFC at 255 South Boulder Road, surgeons operated on the boy to repair an umbilical and epigastric hernia that was brought on by the infection, the suit claims.

"I'm furious with KFC," Gianni's mother, Natalie Velotta, said Monday. "I will never go back to that restaurant again. I don't even want their commercials in my house."

Kiley also suffered from vomiting and severe diarrhea, but her condition did not escalate like Gianni's.

Natalie and her husband, Jamey, seek damages under the Colorado Product Liability Act for future and past medical expenses, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life.

The couple's attorney, William Marler of Seattle said the Lafayette restaurant didn't take the necessary steps to ensure its customers were served unadulterated food. As a result, "these children became the innocent victims of KFC's negligence," Marler said.

A spokesperson with KFC USA Inc. in Louisville, Ky., said she had not seen the lawsuit so she could not address it specifically.

Amy Sherwood did say, however, that "the health and safety of our customers is our top priority. We have strict food safety and handling guidelines."

On Jan. 18, 2002, Boulder County Health Department inspectors found two areas in the restaurant of potential cross contamination — in the water used to wet chicken pieces before battering and in the flour mixture used for the meat's batter, the document stated.

A later test showed that Gianni and another child were infected with the same strain of bacteria: salmonella Newport. A test conducted by state inspectors showed that the bacteria had the same genetic fingerprint.

"I'm really, really hurt for everything that happened to Gianni," Natalie Velotta said. "The worst part to me is how it affected him psychologically. It's the worst thing I've ever been through."

Contact Pam Regensberg at (303) 473-1329 or