$7 Million Paid to Centennial Man Diagnosed With Popcorn Lung

Posted on September 20, 2012

Could the microwave popcorn you keep in your household or your office actually compromise your health?  That’s what a man from Centennial, Colorado recently contended, and the courts have agreed with him.

Some background is in order.  An individual used to eat popcorn from manufacturer Gilster-Mary Lee on a daily basis.  His intake was estimated to be somewhere in the neighborhood of two bags per day.  However, that all stopped in 2007 when he was diagnosed with what’s known as Popcorn Lung.  This appropriately named malady afflicts persons with various respiratory problems.

Popcorn lung is not a new phenomenon, but this is the first noted occasion where a consumer has been diagnosed with the health problem.  Previously, popcorn quality testers who had frequent exposure to popcorn had filed suit against manufacturers because of the health issues that they had to contend with.  These health issues stem from the prevalence of Dicetyl in the popcorn.  Although this ingredient has since been removed from popcorn, it was previously shown that fumes from this chemical could be inhaled, which could lead to the aforementioned breathing problems if a person is exposed to the popcorn for an extended period of time.  The workers who originally filed suits settled or won cases worth millions of dollars.

Feeling like he was taken advantage of, the consumer affected by this illness filed suit against the popcorn company and Kroger and Dillon Foods, the operating companies of the King Soopers where he bought the item.  Lawyers argued that a warning label should have been affixed that would warn potential consumers of the risks associated with microwavable butter popcorn.

Despite the lawsuits filed by quality assurance workers, no label was ever affixed, and the popcorn continued to be sold to consumers.  Gilster-Mary Lee pointed to the fact that there were still millions of people who did not get sick from the continued consumption of the popcorn.

The jury, though, was inclined to side with the man who experienced popcorn lung.  He believes it was the testimony from his own doctor that ultimately swayed the jury.  He won the case, and the courts have decreed that the defendants owe the man $7 million for all that he’s had to go through.  Gilster-Mary Lee was found to be 80% at fault for the illness, whereas Kroger and Dillon Foods were found to be responsible for a combined 20% of the blame.  The grocers have expressed their intent to appeal the claim.

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