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Man Wins $7.2 Million in “Popcorn Lung” Lawsuit

September 21, 2012 — Wayne Watson, a man who ate two bags of artificially butter-flavored microwave popcorn every day for several years, has been awarded $7.2 million by a jury in Colorado. Watson alleges that the product manufacturers and grocery stores failed to adequately warn about the link between diacetyl, the chemical that gives microwave popcorn its buttery aroma, and a life-threatening respiratory disease. Watson was diagnosed with “popcorn lung” in 2007, and no longer eats popcorn.

The lawsuit was filed against Glister-Mary Lee Corp., the popcorn manufacturer, and supermarket chains King Soopers and Kroger. Watson alleges that the companies were negligent, and therefore liable for is lung disease.

The lawsuit is unusual because it is the first (perhaps only) “popcorn lung” lawsuit filed by a consumer. Most of these types of lawsuits were filed by factory workers exposed to diacetyl in the workplace, and subsequently developed severe respiratory illnesses. Several major manufacturers were forced to pay millions to resolve these lawsuits, and most no longer use diacetyl in their products — including Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret, and Jolly Time.

“Popcorn lung” is the informal name for a type of obstructive lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. The disease is characterized by severe scarring in the lungs, which can cause a person to suffer chronic dry cough and breathing problems. The condition can be very severe, and even deadly.

The attorneys for the grocery store and popcorn manufacturers have vowed to appeal the jury’s decision, and say they are disappointed in the verdict. Attorneys for Kroger, a massive supermarket chain, say they “might as well have warned that there are aliens popping out of the bags because there’s just as much support for that.”

Diacetyl is a chemical that was used for several years to make butter and vanilla flavorings and aromas. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) cites research that has concluded, “It is highly likely that exposures to diacetyl contributed to the occurrence of severe fixed obstructive lung disease.” OSHA has also published a Hazard Communication about the dangers of workplace exposure to diacetyl.

Consumers who are concerned about microwave popcorn might consider using an air popper to make popcorn. Homemade popcorn can be flavored with a little salt, pepper, and real butter. As an alternative, try a little garlic powder, fresh grated parmesean, and cayenne.

Do I have a Popcorn Lung Lawsuit?

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting “popcorn lung” induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been injured by exposure to a toxic chemical, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Product Liability Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

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