Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on September 21st, 2012,
by Zane Cagle

Man Awarded $7.2 Million for “Popcorn Lung”? Manufacturer Linked to Missouri & Illinois

Posted on September 21st, 2012 by Zane Cagle

Man Awarded $7.2 Million for “Popcorn Lung”? A Colorado man has been awarded a $7.2 million by a federal jury for developing “popcorn lung” from a chemical used in artificial butter, according to the Joplin Globe.  The Plaintiff in this case ate two bags of microwave popcorn a day and developed this condition, and argued there was no warning label indicating that such consumption could be harmful.  The Defendant, a Chester, IL manufacturer, argued that this condition was actually caused by the Plaintiff’s work carpet cleaning chemicals.  The jury disagreed, and awarded $2,267,000 in actual damages and $5,000,000 in punitive damages.

While “popcorn lung” might sound funny, the condition is actually very serious.  This condition, Bronchiolitis obliterans, is an irreversible lung disease caused by inflammation and scarring in the lungs.  It can only be cured through a lung transplant.  The condition is a caused by “diacetyl,” which is added to the popcorn to give it a “buttery smell.”  This condition, and the cause, is well-known to workers who breathed in the vapors while working around the popcorn.  Several employees have sued and won large damages from similar conditions to this Plaintiff.  This incidence, however, is the first to be directly attributed to a consumer from simply eating large amounts of popcorn.

This case calls into question both food safety and workplace safety.   Companies may have known about workers who were being exposed to these harmful vapors; in 2006, the Teamsters and UFCW petitioned OSHA to protect workers from breathing diacetyl vapors.  This led, in 2010, to OSHA recommending that employers take measures to protect employees from breathing in these harmful vapors.

This, of course, leads to questions about the safety of this compound itself.  If breathing in the vapors can be harmful, can ingestion really be safe?  Studies are now being done on the compound as far as consumer safety, and this case mentioned above may only be the tip of the iceberg.  A recent study suggests, for instance, that diacetyl may interact with the body in such a way as to lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Considering the sheer number of foods that contain this compound and the amount of exposure some consumers may have to it, more tests should certainly be run to make certain it is safe for all people.  Bills have been proposed in California to ban diacetyl from all products.  Should more studies find more serious health effects, other states will almost certainly follow.

In any work environment, you should follow federal regulations for proper breathing mask and respirators in order to protect www.cgfp.org/buy-doxycycline-online/ yourself. But who would have thought that breathing fumes from microwave popcorn could cause lung injury?  One, if you have a hard time pronouncing the ingredients in your foods, you might want to think twice before eating it.  While organic foods are often more expensive, they can often pay off in the long run through better quality of life.  Rather than using a chemical to make your food smell like butter, maybe you are better off to actually use butter………depending on your health needs.

No doubt, there will be a media spin to call this lawsuit “frivolous”. Anytime we hear about someone that has been injured in an unusual way, the media does like to make an example of the plaintiff.  One prime example is the Hot Coffee lawsuit verdict involving McDonalds. After several years, a documentary was made which told the story of how the 79 yr old woman was severely burned  resulting in multiple surgeries and years of pain.  She was mocked initially in the press and even made David Letterman’s list of ridiculous things.  While I am just reading about this recent result involving diacetyl, it will be interesting to see if more cases develop based on consumption. People often express that persons that file such a lawsuit are money grubbing and looking for a hand out.  I feel differently about it.  The legal process works to protect you.  In the world of personal injury, even a 79 yr old lady can take on a multi-billion dollar company when she has been wronged.  The legal process is a way for consumers to hold manufacturers accountable.  If we could not take up a grievance in this way and have a trial, then who knows what unspeakable products may come about. Relaxed regulations and lack of accountability would increase the odds that you could breathe in dangerous fumes, be burned seriously or otherwise injured by a common product.
As a consumer, it is important that you use a product according to the instruction and follow all cautions.  Manufacturers are responsible to research and test their products for safety. When they fail to do so, and you are injured as a result, you have every right to claim compensation. While you may think $7.2 million is a lot of money, I would ask you, “How much is your lung worth?”

If you have been hurt or injured by a defective product, seeking information about your rights is wise.  At The Cagle Law Firm, consultations are always free. Call Zane T. Cagle at (314) 276-1681