Popcorn Plant Worker Awarded $814,500 in Popcorn Lung Lawsuit

A Baltimore County jury has awarded a Maryland man $814,500 as the result of a “popcorn lung” lawsuit filed against a chemical manufacturer. 

The complaint was brought by Brian Hallock, a former employee of McCormick & Co. He sued Polarome International Inc. for failing to warn about the possible health risks associated with exposure to the chemical diacetyl, which was used for years to make microwave popcorn smell buttery.

Hallock was first exposed to diacetyl in 1981 and now suffers from a rare lung disease associated with the chemical, known as bronciolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung”.

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Hallock was originally awarded $5.4 million last month, but that amount was reduced last week due to Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages. Hallock’s attorney has indicated that they intend to challenge the state cap.

Bronchiolitis obliterans is more commonly known as microwave popcorn lung because it is most commonly known to occur among popcorn plant workers exposed to diacetyl. The lung disease is characterized by the scarring and inflammation of small airways, known as bronchioles, which leads to diminished lung capacity and breathing problems. The disease is irreversible and severe cases may require lung transplants and can lead to death.

More than 300 popcorn lung disease lawsuits have been filed nationwide, with most of those coming from employees of popcorn manufacturers. However, a growing number of popcorn consumers have been diagnosed with the disease and have filed lawsuits against companies that manufactured or used the flavoring.

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