By Jeff Lehr
Globe Staff Writer
A jury in Chicago has awarded a $30.4 million verdict to a chemical-flavoring plant worker disabled by exposure to diacetyl, an ingredient in butter flavoring used at a Jasper popcorn plant where several workers claimed similar injury.
The verdict awarded to Gerardo Solis, 45, and against BASF Corp., a supplier of diacetyl and the world’s largest chemical company, is the highest rendered to date in popcorn and butter-flavoring worker lawsuits in the U.S., according to Ken McClain, the attorney for Solis.
Solis worked at a Flavorchem Corp. plant in the Chicago area between the years 1998 and 2006 when he was diagnosed with a rare lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans. McClain said Solis is totally disabled with 25 percent of normal lung capacity and is projected to require a lung transplant within the next 10 years.
The largest verdict previously awarded to an individual in the cases was $20 million granted by a Jasper County jury to Eric Peoples of Carthage and his wife in 2004. Two $15 million verdicts and a $2.7 million award were rendered to other workers at the former Jasper Popcorn Co. plant. Those cases involved Bush Boake Allen Inc. and International Flavors & Fragrances Inc., suppliers of butter flavoring to the plant and not BASF.
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