‘Popcorn lung’ lawsuit: Denver man gets $7.2-million verdict

A Denver man who says he ate two bags of microwaved popcorn every day for about 10 years has won a $7.2-million verdict after he developed an ailment often referred to as “popcorn lung.”

It’s an illness that can be traced back to the chemicals used to give popcorn a buttery flavoring without all the calories. The chemical -- an artificial flavoring called diacetyl, is no longer used in artificial flavoring and some experts see a possible link between diacetyl and Alzheimer’s, according to ABC News.

After Wayne Watson developed respiratory problems in 2007, he sued the manufacturer and the store that sold it. “I probably look like a fairly healthy guy but I only have, on a good day, about 53% lung capacity,” Watson told ABC News.

Wayne Watson’s attorney, Ken McClain, told the Associated Press that a federal jury granted the award Wednesday against Gilster-Mary Lee Corp., The Kroger Co. and Dillon Companies Inc. after he developed his respiratory ailments. A claim against flavor developer FONA International Inc. was settled separately, the news service reported.

Watson’s attorneys argued the companies should have warned customers inhaling the buttery aroma could put them at risk of lung damage.


Defense attorneys countered Watson’s health problems were the result of a career spent working around carpet-cleaning chemicals. Several said they are either planning an appeal, or considering their legal options.

CBS Denver posted a statement released from Gilster-Mary Lee issued after the verdict. The statement said in part: “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.”


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