Bronchiolitis Obliterans Lawsuit By Factory Worker Ends in Defense Verdict
A Los Angeles jury has returned a defense verdict in a lawsuit filed by a flavoring factory worker who allegedly developed the severe lung condition bronchiolitis obliterans from exposure to chemicals used to give microwave popcorn a buttery smell.
Wilfredo Velasquez filed the lawsuit against Advanced Biotech Inc., arguing that the company failed to warn his employer, Gold Coast Ingredients Inc. about the risks associated with exposure to diacetyl, which has been linked to a risk of branchiolitis obliterans.
The severe respiratory condition is more commonly known as popcorn lung because of its prevalence among workers in the microwave popcorn and flavoring chemical industries.
While a Los Angeles Superior Court jury determined that Advanced Biotech failed to adequately warn about the risks of diacetyl, the company was cleared of liability for Velasquez’s injury on December 13, with a defense verdict returned because the cause of the plaintiff’s bronchiolitis obliterans was unclear. According to a report by Law360.com, defense attorneys argued at trial that Velasquez’s health problems could have been caused by exposure to other chemicals, and also proposed that Velasquez had asthma, not popcorn lung.
Velasquez worked at Gold Coast from February 2004 through November 2005. A medical expert who testified at the trial said that he would likely need a lung transplant.
Lawsuits Over Bronchiolitis Obliterans Filed by Workers and Microwave Popcorn Consumers
The case is one of a number of popcorn lung lawsuits filed throughout the United States by former factory workers diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans, as well as a handful of consumers diagnosed after eating large amounts of microwave popcorn.
In September, a Denver man diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans was awarded $7.2 million in damages against various companies that made and sold microwave popcorn without warning about the potential risk of health problems from diacetyl. The case was the first successful claim brought by a consumer who alleged that he developed popcorn lung after eating multiple bags of microwave popcorn a day for 10 years.
Diacetyl was used for years to give microwave popcorn its buttery smell before it was linked to popcorn lung. The microwave popcorn industry turned away from the additive once its links to popcorn lung disease became widely recognized and have used a variety of substitutes to duplicate its effects. However, diacetyl is still used as a food additive in some other industries.
Popcorn lung causes scarring and inflammation of small airways, known as bronchioles, leading to diminished lung capacity and breathing problems. The disease is irreversible and severe cases may require lung transplants and can lead to death.
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