Monday, March 16, 2009

Popcorn Workers Lung Victim, Wife Awarded $7.5 Million

Popcorn Lung is the name given for Bronchiolitis Obliterans that occurs in workers in factories that use diacetyl in the production of "buttery" popcorn. I understand that diacetyl is no longer being used but I think I'll stick with plain popcorn and real butter.

A jury has ruled in favor of a plaintiff in a Popcorn Workers Lung lawsuit. According to The Associated Press, the federal jury in Iowa yesterday ordered a flavorings manufacturer to pay the victim - who died just a day before of complications from Popcorn Workers Lung - and his wife $7.5 million for causing his injuries.

Popcorn Workers Lung is a potentially life threatening ailment, for which the only cure is a lung transplant. The disease - also known as bronchiolitis obliterans - has been linked to diacetyl, a chemical used to give microwave popcorn and other snack foods a buttery flavor.

In 2003 and 2004, the National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health found an association between diacetyl and the development of Popcorn Workers Lung among hundreds of workers at six Midwestern popcorn factories. In April 2007, the Centers for Disease Control reported that workers at food flavoring factories, as well as popcorn plants, were at risk for the disease.

Since the link between diacetyl and Popcorn Workers Lung was established, hundreds of stricken workers have filed lawsuits against flavorings manufacturers. According to The Associated Press, more than 300 other cases are pending around the country, and verdicts as high as $20 million have been awarded in previous cases.

According to The Associated Press, 69-year-old Ronald Kuiper and his wife had filed suit in 2006 against four companies that made popcorn flavoring used at the American Pop Corn Co. Kuiper had worked at American Pop Corn Co. in Sioux City as a butter flavor mixer since the 1990s, the Associated Press said. All of the companies, with the exception of Givaudan Flavors Corp. of Cincinnati, had resolved the Kuipers’ claims.

The Iowa jury agreed with the Kuipers that diacetyl from Givaudan Flavors’ butter flavoring had caused Ronald Kuiper’s illness. According to the Associated Press, Ronald Kuiper was awarded $2 million for future pain and suffering and $750,000 for past pain and suffering; $2 million for future loss of function of the mind and body and $750,000 for past loss of function of the mind and body; $500,000 for future medical expenses and $50,000 for past medical expenses. The jury also awarded $1 million for future loss of spousal consortium and $500,000 for loss of past spousal consortium to Ronald Kuiper’s wife.

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