Man wins $7m damages in 'popcorn lung' payout


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The Independent US

A US jury has awarded a Colorado man $7.2 million (£4.4m) damages after claiming he developed 'popcorn lung' by inhaling a chemical used to flavour microwave popcorn.

The jury in the case were in agreement with Wayne Watson's claim that the manufacturer who produced the popcorn, and the supermarket that sold it, were negligent because they failed to warn consumers that the flavouring was dangerous.

Watson, 59, claimed the butter flavouring, diacetyl, caused a form of obstructive lung disease, a condition that scars the lungs and makes makes it difficult for air to flow out of them.

The condition is irreversible.

The official name of the illness is Bronchiolitis obliterans and it can cause a dry cough, shortness of breath and wheezing.

The lawyers defending the popcorn manufacturer claimed Mr Watson had in fact developed the illness after working for years with carpet cleaning chemicals.

Watson told the court that he developed problems breathing in 2007, after eating the product regularly.

The firms involved are the Gilster-Mary Lee Corp, The Kroger Co and Dillon Companies Inc.

Mr Watson had previously settled claims against the flavour developer FONA International Inc, formerly Flavours of North America Inc.

Watson, who lives in Denver, was diagnosed at a respiratory health centre in 2007, after years of eating the popcorn daily.

Jurors found Gilster-Mary Lee Corp, the manufacturer of the popcorn liable for 80% of the $7,217,961 damages. The King Soopers supermarket chain and its parent company, Kroger, were found liable for the remaining 20%.

The verdict was the latest in a number of cases in the past 15 years, which began with complaints in popcorn plants where diacetyl was an ingredient.

A number of similar cases are thought to be pending in New York and Iowa.