Wayne Watson v. Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, Kroger Co and Dillon Companies
The first consumer of microwave popcorn diagnosed with Popcorn Lung (Bronchiolitis Obliterans) received a $7,267,000 verdict today in Federal Court in Denver against Gilster-Mary Lee Corporation, Kroger Co and Dillon Companies.Wayne Watson of Centennial Colorado was diagnosed with Popcorn Lung in 2007 by Dr. Cecile Rose of world-renowned National Jewish Hospital in Denver.
The disease was first recognized in microwave popcorn workers that worked in a microwave popcorn plant in Missouri. The workers were diagnosed with the rare disease Bronchiolitis Obliterans which the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOSH) confirmed was caused by exposure to artificial butter flavor chemicals.
The NIOSH scientists concluded that the chemical diacetyl was the agent, which was causing lung diseases among the workers, subsequent testing on laboratory rats showed that animals exposed to the chemical also had lung disease.Workers around the country began suing for this devastating lung disease in 2004 and verdicts of up to $30,000,000 have been awarded to microwave popcorn and flavoring workers.
Kenneth McClain of Humphrey Farrington and McClain has represented every successful Plaintiff and represented the Watson's today. "What happened here was an avoidable tragedy," said McClain. "Gilster-Mary Lee knew its own employees in the quality control room were getting sick from popping corn. It was not a long leap to recognize that consumers were also at risk," said McClain.
The jury awarded $2,267,000 in actual damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages. "The punitive award is very significant," said McClain. "Gilster-Mary Lee is the larges private label popcorn manufacturer in the country and the evidence was that they purposely did not warn consumers about the risk of microwave popcorn."
"I just hope this doesn't happen to others," said Wayne Watson. "That's why we filed the case!
"Other such cases are currently pending in federal court in Iowa and in state court in New York."
Unfortunately, many consumers out there may be sick today because doctors just don't know that this is possible. I hope this will get the word out so doctors begin to ask the question, is this possible?"
Dr. Cecile Rose at National Jewish in Denver discovered this link when she asked Mr. Watson, "Are you around large quantities of microwave popcorn?" She had been a consultant to the flavoring industry and had seen the same disease that Wayne Watson had among those workers.