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Popcorn Lung: Colorado Man Wins $7 Million Lawsuit

Popcorn Lung Lawsuit

A Colorado man who developed a lung condition from the butter flavoring used in his favorite microwave popcorn has won a $7.2 million lawsuit, according to Reuters. 59-year-old Wayne Watson claims the popcorn packaging did not contain any warnings about the dangers of diacetyl, the chemical used to give the product its buttery taste. As a result of the manufacturer’s negligence, Watson is now suffering from an irreversible lung condition.

The Denver, Colorado native is reportedly the first individual to be diagnosed with “popcorn lung,” technically known as bronchiolitis obliterans. After years of breathing in the fumes rising from his delicious microwave popcorn, Watson began suffering from serious respiratory problems. He was officially diagnosed with the condition in 2007.

“It’s kind of a weird story isn’t it? A guy gets sick by breathing in the toxic fumes of dicetyl that is on butter-flavored microwave popcorn in the sanctity of his own kitchen,” Watson explained to CBS Denver. “I haven’t eaten a bag of popcorn since 2007. I hardly eat popcorn any more. Occasionally we’ll pop some on the stove the old fashioned way.”

After hearing testimony from both sides, a jury decided that manufacturer Gilster-Mary Lee Corp and Kroger Co. are guilty of failing to provide proper warnings on the product’s packaging. For his troubles, Watson will receive $7.2 million in damages. Gilster-Mary Lee is responsible for 80 percent of that figure, while Kroger and King Soopers will be forced to cough up 20 percent.

The manufacturer issued the following statement on the matter:

“Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. has manufactured and provided safe, quality microwave popcorn to consumers for over two decades. We are certainly very disappointed by the decision of the jury in this case in light of the very clear evidence which was presented, including the millions of consumers who have safely used and enjoyed microwave popcorn since it was introduced. We are currently evaluating our next steps in this matter and will assert all rights available to us under the law.”

Do you feel Wayne Watson should receive $7 million in damages for developing “popcorn lung?”

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Comments

88 Responses to “Popcorn Lung: Colorado Man Wins $7 Million Lawsuit”

  1. Tan A Kendrick

    i am appauled over this decision. I myself, fell at a local Dairy Queen, became permanetly disabled in 2008. Went to trial, Dairy Queen lied, put a woman on the stand that testified she came to my aide. FACT: I never saw that woman in my life. They had 3 people sign a statement that they saw me, purposely drop ice on the floor and fall on it. FACT: I only saw 1 person in there until the ambulance came. Some little young kid stuck his head around the corner. The lady that helped me, was willing to testify on my behalf, was never contacted by my lawyer. I got 0, and left $ 50,000.00 in the hole. Justice

  2. Judy Dorfner

    If the Dicetyl that he was breathing is the cause of his problem then yes. He most assuredly deserves it. Workers in the factories that make microwave popcorn have complained of this for years. The company knows that it is bad. They continued to use it. They deserve to be swatted for their negligence. And remember..the man has an irreversible lung condition.

  3. Judy Dorfner

    If the Dicetyl that he was breathing is the cause of his problem then yes. He most assuredly deserves it. Workers in the factories that make microwave popcorn have complained of this for years. The company knows that it is bad. They continued to use it. They deserve to be swatted for their negligence. And remember..the man has an irreversible lung condition.

  4. Anonymous

    Leslieg Peck Ever heard of "hocking a loogie"? The result of such an action = lung butter.

  5. Esterlita V. Medel

    It's about time someone step forward. I love popcorn especially the "homemade" one but it brought me to have an emergency Cholecystectomy. Two weeks before my surgery, I ate popcorn and it triggered my pain, an agonizing pain for the whole night and was unable to go to work. It subsided and I did not believe it was the popcorn. I bought and ate another bag and for sure it triggered the pain that I can not tolerate anymore and ask a friend to send me to ER or else I might do drastic thing to alleviate the pain. Now I am hesitant to eat popcorn.

  6. Anonymous

    This award was ridiculous! It has been SUGGESTED, but NOT PROVEN, that employees of plants manufacturing butter-flavored microwave popcorn suffer from an increased incidence of this lung disease, but it is only a SUGGESTION! It is a VERY rare disease, about which very little is actually known. Even in plants where workers are exposed to very high concentrations of the substance, for eight hours at a time, in a relatively closed environment, OSHA does not REQUIRE protective gear. There ADVISORY on the subject is very clear, I think:

    "This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations."

    This man would have had to be in a closed chamber and inhaled fumes from this substance for hours on end, day after day after day for years on end, to have any chance of it harming him!

    I seldom side with Corporate America, but as a retired respiratory therapist, have to in this case. As for Tan A Kendrick's case, nothing is surprising, here! Corporate America, as a whole, has no integrity! One only has to look at the massive outsourcing of jobs that were once American, and the subsequent melt-down of our economy, to know this! And it was Corporate America that is responsible! Not Obama nor Congress, except where Congress ignored Perot's warnings about jobs disappearing when NAFTA was adopted!

  7. Anonymous

    This award was ridiculous! It has been SUGGESTED, but NOT PROVEN, that employees of plants manufacturing butter-flavored microwave popcorn suffer from an increased incidence of this lung disease, but it is only a SUGGESTION! It is a VERY rare disease, about which very little is actually known. Even in plants where workers are exposed to very high concentrations of the substance, for eight hours at a time, in a relatively closed environment, OSHA does not REQUIRE protective gear. There ADVISORY on the subject is very clear, I think:

    "This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations."

    This man would have had to be in a closed chamber and inhaled fumes from this substance for hours on end, day after day after day for years on end, to have any chance of it harming him!

    I seldom side with Corporate America, but as a retired respiratory therapist, have to in this case. As for Tan A Kendrick's case, nothing is surprising, here! Corporate America, as a whole, has no integrity! One only has to look at the massive outsourcing of jobs that were once American, and the subsequent melt-down of our economy, to know this! And it was Corporate America that is responsible! Not Obama nor Congress, except where Congress ignored Perot's warnings about jobs disappearing when NAFTA was adopted!

  8. Anonymous

    This award was ridiculous! It has been SUGGESTED, but NOT PROVEN, that employees of plants manufacturing butter-flavored microwave popcorn suffer from an increased incidence of this lung disease, but it is only a SUGGESTION! It is a VERY rare disease, about which very little is actually known. Even in plants where workers are exposed to very high concentrations of the substance, for eight hours at a time, in a relatively closed environment, OSHA does not REQUIRE protective gear. There ADVISORY on the subject is very clear, I think:

    "This guidance is not a standard or regulation, and it creates no new legal obligations."

    This man would have had to be in a closed chamber and inhaled fumes from this substance for hours on end, day after day after day for years on end, to have any chance of it harming him!

    I seldom side with Corporate America, but as a retired respiratory therapist, have to in this case. As for Tan A Kendrick's case, nothing is surprising, here! Corporate America, as a whole, has no integrity! One only has to look at the massive outsourcing of jobs that were once American, and the subsequent melt-down of our economy, to know this! And it was Corporate America that is responsible! Not Obama nor Congress, except where Congress ignored Perot's warnings about jobs disappearing when NAFTA was adopted!

  9. Luke Springer

    Serves you right. How does someone fall and become permanently disabled? Are you 90 years old? Looks like the free handout train didn't deliver for you like it did for some of your other deadbeat counterparts. Don't be bitter towards them….

  10. Luke Springer

    Serves you right. How does someone fall and become permanently disabled? Are you 90 years old? Looks like the free handout train didn't deliver for you like it did for some of your other deadbeat counterparts. Don't be bitter towards them….

  11. Luke Springer

    Disgraceful ruling. Another dumb American rewarded for his stupidity.

  12. Joel C. Landis

    Just another story of someone cashing in on their unhealthy eating habits. Maybe you morbidly obese people out there should take responsibility for your own actions and stop stuffing your faces with things EVERYONE on the planet knows is unhealthy.

  13. Joel C. Landis

    Just another story of someone cashing in on their unhealthy eating habits. Maybe you morbidly obese people out there should take responsibility for your own actions and stop stuffing your faces with things EVERYONE on the planet knows is unhealthy.

  14. Joel C. Landis

    Just another story of someone cashing in on their unhealthy eating habits. Maybe you morbidly obese people out there should take responsibility for your own actions and stop stuffing your faces with things EVERYONE on the planet knows is unhealthy.

  15. Donna LaPan

    Hmmm- I was mis-diagnosed by a doctor in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan Hospital. This mis-diagnosis caused me to become paralyzed for 3 years. Though I am walking a bit with braces and a cane, it is painful and the nerve damage is irreversible. I am not going to judge someone else's pain or problems, but maybe I should be at least getting my thousand dollar meds paid for…my power chair ramp, maybe even a vehicle that would help me be more independent. Where are these lawyers when those of us need them. lol

  16. Donna LaPan

    Hmmm- I was mis-diagnosed by a doctor in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan Hospital. This mis-diagnosis caused me to become paralyzed for 3 years. Though I am walking a bit with braces and a cane, it is painful and the nerve damage is irreversible. I am not going to judge someone else's pain or problems, but maybe I should be at least getting my thousand dollar meds paid for…my power chair ramp, maybe even a vehicle that would help me be more independent. Where are these lawyers when those of us need them. lol

  17. Donna LaPan

    Hmmm- I was mis-diagnosed by a doctor in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan Hospital. This mis-diagnosis caused me to become paralyzed for 3 years. Though I am walking a bit with braces and a cane, it is painful and the nerve damage is irreversible. I am not going to judge someone else's pain or problems, but maybe I should be at least getting my thousand dollar meds paid for…my power chair ramp, maybe even a vehicle that would help me be more independent. Where are these lawyers when those of us need them. lol

  18. Anonymous

    Does the guy drink alcohol? Because diacetyl is commonly found in alcoholic beverages. How do you determine if this was truly caused by the popcorn? Could be a whole host of other items, including alcohol.

    I don't think the court has enough to find the popcorn company guilty. I'm sure there were other components to his illness, not only the popcorn.

  19. Anonymous

    Does the guy drink alcohol? Because diacetyl is commonly found in alcoholic beverages. How do you determine if this was truly caused by the popcorn? Could be a whole host of other items, including alcohol.

    I don't think the court has enough to find the popcorn company guilty. I'm sure there were other components to his illness, not only the popcorn.

  20. Anonymous

    Does the guy drink alcohol? Because diacetyl is commonly found in alcoholic beverages. How do you determine if this was truly caused by the popcorn? Could be a whole host of other items, including alcohol.

    I don't think the court has enough to find the popcorn company guilty. I'm sure there were other components to his illness, not only the popcorn.

  21. Dana Russell

    Yes, Absolutely.. F#@k these money mongers who don't give a damn about the consumers heath!

  22. Rita Christian

    hard to believe, there is not help for every American that needs health needs met… we help so many that live in other Countries…how fair is that…

  23. Dana Russell

    I will say this though, EVERYONE should know better than to use a microwave to cook ANYTHING…. I use my microwave only for heating a heating pad….. hope those beads don't have harmful chemicals.

  24. Steve Myers

    Donna, I am with you all the way. My wheelchair is getting dusty but some of the pain remains.

  25. Joseph Chaisson

    Did he ever smoke? Where in Denver he lived? There is a lot of air pollution in certain parts. What was his job? did he work in an area where there are a lot of fumes, how do they know is was specifically the pop corn? There are just to many questions and its hard to believe that is condition is caused 100% by that.

  26. Anonymous

    I knew it! When it first came out I knew it was a bad chemical inside the bag so I stopped eating that crap long ago. I hope all you housewives get popcorn kum I mean lung. You all buy that crap.. lolololol

  27. Yvonne Lowe- Levy

    Wow, popcorn must of caused my Lung Cancer stage3…couldn't possibly be the air we breathe!

  28. Yvonne Lowe- Levy

    Wow, popcorn must of caused my Lung Cancer stage3…couldn't possibly be the air we breathe!

  29. Yvonne Lowe- Levy

    Wow, popcorn must of caused my Lung Cancer stage3…couldn't possibly be the air we breathe!

  30. Anonymous

    Many people may have had the condition and never got it diagnosed…when I was younger I would take the bag out of the microwave and open the bag and let the fumes hit my face…oh shit.

  31. Anonymous

    A.C. Niyikiza Most of us work eight hours a day for 30 years and not even close to 7 million…

  32. Chip Lewis

    The judge should have forced a real apology. What they said above was not an apology. Hardly even a statement that they will fix the problem.

  33. Elizabeth Gallup

    I had a similar disease. It was called BOOP. Very hard to diagnose and often fatal. I'm one of the lucky ones. I survived. It did permanent lung damage. I didn't get it from popcorn–I don't think. Actually doctors aren't really sure what causes it. Atleast they didn't when I had it. Money won't change my condition. I just thank the Lord I am still alive and able to enjoy life.

  34. Jennifer Stengl

    My 11 yr old told me about the chemical and how it can cause many problems, he read it in a magazine. We just avoid anything with the"fake butter".

  35. Leslie Hoerwinkle

    In response to this lawsuit, Fiji Water has added a warning to their bottled water: Drinking too much of our water at one time may result in drowning.

  36. Leslie Hoerwinkle

    In response to this lawsuit, Fiji Water has added a warning to their bottled water: Drinking too much of our water at one time may result in drowning.

  37. Leslie Hoerwinkle

    In response to this lawsuit, Fiji Water has added a warning to their bottled water: Drinking too much of our water at one time may result in drowning.

  38. Anonymous

    it's not the flavoring, it is the fumes you breathe in when you open the bag. They are toxic…

  39. Robin Freutel Ward

    The problem here is that we continue to reward folks for not taking personal responsibility for their own bad habits. and yes. eating processed foods, especially those that contain grains is a bad habit. Corn is pig fodder. Plain and simple. This is like blaming dunkin donuts when you get fat because the doughnut bag doesn't have a disclaimer. Why the heck was he sticking his face over a steaming bad of corn anyway? Was he trying to give himself a facial?

  40. Fran Moran Lomas Tintelnot

    Wow, this is the first I have heard of it. I eat microwave buttered popcorn EVERYDAY. Now, I will double check on the popcorn I have and start buying the plain. Real butter tastes better anyway. Sorry for this individual. I wish I could have sued my doctors.

  41. Fran Moran Lomas Tintelnot

    Wow, this is the first I have heard of it. I eat microwave buttered popcorn EVERYDAY. Now, I will double check on the popcorn I have and start buying the plain. Real butter tastes better anyway. Sorry for this individual. I wish I could have sued my doctors.

  42. Anonymous

    Shame on America for another unfounded Lawsuit killing American jobs! that manufacturing plant will probably be shut down now. There goes another 200 jobs. We need regulations on lawsuits. How about part of the money goes into research that creates some of the jobs back? How about instead of making it the companies responsibility make it the FDA or OSHA's responsibility so they tighten their regulations in the first place, or these lawsuits won't actually go through, because I imagine it is harder to sue the government then a small manufacturing company.

  43. Esterlita V. Medel

    k. Thank you sa mga BFF ko na sina Nilda at Cliff Galang na nagdala sa akin sa ER at sumundo naman sa akin ay BFF kong si Lani at inaanak kong si Mikko.

  44. Rob Paulsen

    It's a legit disease with a very solid evidence base. Some of the most common butter flavorings vaporize as very, very small particles that get trapped deep in your lungs, and your body has no way of expelling them. The CDC has seen the condition mostly in popcorn production workplaces around the country with workers suffering from abnormally high levels of lung disease. The chemical flavoring exposure over time causes irreversible damage to lung tissue, which has been confirmed with several animal studies. It is the best explanation available for several human deaths.

  45. Donna LaPan

    Thanks, Denise and Jimmy. It's weird, but right now I could honestly care less about money. As long as we can pay our bills, buy my medication and have a little left over for gas and groceries, I am satisfied. I just get angry sometimes and feel that I should be entitled to having my medical expenses paid. But I'm not even sure who to be angry at. I know doctors make mistakes…they are human. The anger doesn't last long, though. It goes away…Thank God!

  46. Anonymous

    should've just said "this popcorn contains diacetyl" on the packaging and they wouldn't have this 7million dollar problem. Too much mula awarded though. eh..

  47. Anonymous

    Did Wayne Watson develop the disease or did the the disease develop in him? I don't know about the amount of money awarded, what I want to know is: How does one or a few people get the disease and hundreds, if not thousands, eating the same brand of popcorn don't get the disease? So, I'm guessing that the award is given for failing to put a warning on the bag of popcorn. I have COPD, a chronic lung disease, so I understand the breathing problem, but SEVEN million $'s?