DENVER, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A U.S. federal court jury on
Wednesday awarded a Colorado man $7.2 million in damages for
developing a chronic condition known as popcorn lung from a
chemical used in flavoring microwave popcorn.
Jurors agreed with the claims by Wayne Watson, 59, that the
popcorn manufacturer and the supermarket chain that sold it were
negligent by failing to warn on labels that the butter
flavoring, diacetyl, was dangerous.
The condition is a form of obstructive lung disease that
makes it difficult for air to flow out of the lungs and is
irreversible, according to WebMd.
Watson, of suburban Denver, was the first consumer of
microwave popcorn diagnosed with the disease, bronchiolitis
obliterans, his attorney Kenneth McClain said.
Watson was diagnosed in 2007 at Denver's National Jewish
Health, a respiratory health center, after years of inhaling the
smell of artificial butter on the popcorn he said he ate daily.
The verdict was the latest in a line of cases in the past 15
years, starting with workers in popcorn plants where diacetyl
was an ingredient, that has linked the chemical to health
Jurors found Gilster-Mary Lee Corp, the Chester, Illinois,
private-labeling manufacturer of the popcorn, liable for 80
percent of the $7,217,961 damages and the King Soopers
supermarket chain and its parent, Kroger Co, liable for 20
An attorney for the defendants had told jurors that Watson's
health problems were from his years of using dangerous chemicals
as a carpet cleaner.
A spokeswoman for King Soopers and Kroger said the companies
intended to appeal the decision. An attorney for Gilster-Mary
Lee was not immediately available for comment.
Similar cases are pending in federal court in Iowa and in
state court in New York, the attorney said.
McClain said he has represented microwave popcorn and
flavoring workers across the United States who began suing in
2004 and have been awarded large damages.
He said Dr. Cecile Rose, a witness for Watson and one of his
physicians at National Jewish Health, made the connection
between his disease and diacetyl when she asked him if he had
been around large quantities of microwave popcorn.
She had been a consultant to the flavorings industry and had
seen the same disease that Watson had among workers exposed to
The jury took a day to reach its verdict after a nine-day
(Editing by Tim Gaynor and Prudence Crowther)