Popcorn Lung Lawsuit Results in $7.5 Million Verdict

A jury has awarded $7.5 million to an Iowa popcorn worker who developed a rare lung disease known as bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung.” The jury took six days to decide the case before returning their verdict on March 12, 2009, one day after the plaintiff died from the condition.

The popcorn lung lawsuit was filed by 69 year old Ronald Kuiper and his wife against Givaudan Flavors Corp.and three other companies that made popcorn flavoring used to make microwave popcorn at the American Pop Corn Co., where Kuiper worked as a butter-flavor mixer for over 26 years.

Kuiper was diagnosed with the rare respiratory disorder in 2006. The disease has come to be known as “popcorn lung”, since it is caused by inhaling a large amount of fumes from the chemical diacetyl, which is used to give microwave popcorn its butter flavor.

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Popcorn lung is characterized by the scarring and inflammation of small airways, known as bronchioles, which leads to diminished lung capacity and breathing problems. Kuiper died from lung and heart failure on March 11, 2009.

The lawsuit alleged that the manufacturers of the popcorn flavoring failed to adequately test their product or warn about the risk of working around the chemical.

According to the Des Moines Register, over 300 similar popcorn lung lawsuits are currently pending nationwide, with 5 cases in Iowa scheduled for trial to begin in July 2009.

In September 2007, the first case of “popcorn lung” in a non-factory worker was identified in Wayne Watson, a 53 year old man who ate microwave popcorn every night for ten years.

Popcorn manufacturers are reformulating their products and are no longer using diacetyl. In 2007, ConAgra, the largest maker of microwave popcorn, including the Act II and Orville Redenbacher brands, decided to stop using diacetyl out of concern for its workers.


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