Popcorn Lung Verdict for $7.2 Million

By: Domenick Giovanni Lazzara, JD

Every now and then its good to indulge in a guilty pleasure. For me, that’s often a bag of microwave popcorn and a Redbox on Friday night. Our South Florida injury attorneys were shocked to learn that guilty pleasure is more than just a nutritional indulgence; consuming microwave popcorn could be a risk to your health. This past Wednesday, a jury awarded a Colorado man $7.2 million in damages for a chronic condition known as “popcorn lung.” He sued the the manufacturer and distributor. He also sued the grocery store where the product was purchased.

As the name suggests, Wayne Watson, 59, developed popcorn lung as a result of consuming microwaved popcorn. Kenneth McClain, his attorney, argued Mr. Watson’s consumption of two bags a day over the course of ten years, resulted in him being diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans (https://www.webmd.com/lung/bronchiolitis-obliterans-organizing-pneumonia). Bronchiolitis obliterans is a form of obstructive lung disease that makes it difficult for air to flow out of the lungs, and unfortunately. In Mr. Watson’s case, he has permanently lost over 50% of his lung capacity due to his consumption of microwaved popcorn. The condition, caused by the chemicals used in flavoring microwaved popcorn, primarily diacetyl, is irreversible. Mr. McClain ultimately argued that it was the popcorn manufacturer and the supermarket chain that sold the popcorn who were negligent by failing to warn on labels that the flavoring contained in the microwave popcorn was dangerous. Jurors agreed.

This law suit is the latest in a string of claims originating 15 years ago by the workers in popcorn plants where diacetyl, the flavoring ingredient, was being used in the manufacturing process. However, Watson is the first consumer to be diagnosed with popcorn lung from inhaling the smell of artificial butter. Gilster-Mary Lee Corp, the private-labeling manufacturer of the popcorn was found to be 80% liable. The jury held Kroger Supermarket and Dillons food 20% responsible.

If you or somebody you know has suffered from popcorn lung, please contact our office to see how we can help!