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$7.2 Million Verdict in ‘Popcorn Lung’ Lawsuit

Named after two entities that ought never come into contact with one another in the normal course of events, ‘Popcorn Lung’ – otherwise known as Bronchiolitis obliterans – is a rare and life-threatening form of non-reversible obstructive lung disease in which the bronchioles (the small airway branches inside the lung) are compressed and narrowed by scar tissue and/or permanent inflammation.

The epithet, however eccentric, derives its name from a number of instances in which the inhalation of a particular chemical used to produce the artificial butter flavoring in many foods such as candy, microwave popcorn and wines causes severe, irreparable damage to the lungs of consumers. The compound in question, the airborne form of diacetyl, is otherwise approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a safe flavor ingredient, and, despite is evidence to suggest that inhalation in large amounts is dangerous, there are no warnings from federal regulators about diacetyl.

At the time that evidence of the dangers of diacetyl first came to light, lawsuits such as Chicago personal injury cases arose due to the fact that the food manufacturing companies failed to warn consumers that preparing microwave popcorn in a microwave oven as intended, and smelling the ‘buttery’ aroma, could expose the consumer to an inhalation hazard and a risk of lung injury.

Following this logic, MSNBC reports that, just last week, a man who was diagnosed with “popcorn lung” allegedly caused by inhaling the artificial butter smell of the microwave popcorn he regularly ate, won a $7.2 million verdict against various food companies, including grocery store conglomerate The Kroger Co. Prior to winning the personal injury settlement, the man had previously settled claims against the flavor developer FONA International Inc., formerly Flavors of North America Inc.

When consumers are harmed because products are unsafe, an Illinois personal injury lawsuit may arise, and the corporation responsible for production may be made to pay compensatory damages to put the consumer back in the position they were in before the injury occurred. This is especially true when companies disseminate food.

Damages may include remuneration for medical and hospital expenses, and in more serious cases, compensating the victim for a loss of normal life or lost wages. In some cases when the companies’ errors are egregious, they may also be made to pay punitive damages which serve to punish the company and to send a message to others in the same position to be more careful in the future.

If you or a loved one have had an incident with a product that caused an injury, or are the survivor of someone who may have died from the use or exposure to a dangerous or defective product, it’s important that you know your rights under the law.