'Popcorn lung' case pads victim's bank account

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A Colorado man will receive more than $7 million in damages from a food company in connection with a product liability suit. The man, who has consumed significant amounts of popcorn, reportedly developed a debilitating medical condition because of chemicals used to flavor the snack. He is the first consumer to successfully bring a “popcorn lung” case against a major manufacturer.

The man contended that he became sick after inhaling the diacetyl chemical, which is used to provide butter flavoring in the food. He reportedly ate popcorn as a snack every day, which contributed to his illness.

Courtroom documents indicate that the company that labels the product, Gilster-Mary Lee Corp, will be liable for 80 percent of the more than $7.2 million. The supermarket chain that sold the product is liable for the remaining 20 percent of the financial compensation.

“Popcorn lung” is a serious condition that takes the form of obstructive lung disease. This irreversible condition prevents patients from fully exhaling air from their lungs, which limits their bodies’ ability to use oxygen. The condition is not foreign to the popcorn-making industry, as several employees at popcorn plants have brought successful cases against their workplaces.

Representatives for the popcorn company say that the man had worked as a carpet cleaner for many years, which caused him to develop obstructive lung disease. The jury did not agree with that assertion, however, and members reached their verdict after just nine days of testimony.

Spokespeople for the supermarket chain and the popcorn company say that they intend to appeal the decision. As a result, it could be years before the man is able to access the funds due to him because of his illness.

The man likely sought compensation for lost wages, as well as pain and suffering and medical costs. This condition leads to significant physical loss, preventing the patient from fully using their respiratory system. A large award may be considered appropriate for such a life-altering ailment.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Wayne Watson awarded $7.2 million in ‘Popcorn Lung’ lawsuit,” Robert Boczkiewicz, Sept. 19, 2012.