The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Top Stories

September 19, 2012

Popcorn consumer wins $7.3 million verdict

A Colorado man became the first consumer diagnosed with a rare lung disease to prevail in a lawsuit against a maker or purveyor of microwave popcorn Wednesday, winning a verdict of almost $7.3 million against the corporate owners of a popcorn plant in Jasper and two grocery chains.

Wayne Watson, 59, of Centennial, Colo., won the verdict against Gilster-Mary Lee Corp. and The Kroger Co., a Cincinnati-based corporation that owns both Kroger and Dillons grocery stores.

Ken McClain, the plaintiff’s attorney, said his client was diagnosed with bronchiolitis obliterans in 2007 at the National Jewish Hospital in Denver. He argued at trial that Watson contracted the disease through exposure to chemicals associated with artificial butter flavoring in microwave popcorn, which he prepared and ate frequently.

“He ate two to three bags a day, one in the morning, one in the evening, and sometimes, if his wife was there, he would pop one in for her,” McClain said.

McClain said the primary moment of exposure for his client came when he would open the bags after popping them in the microwave. The attorney said the brands that his client preferred to buy, Kroger Movie Theater Butter and First Choice Extra Butter, were made at the Jasper (Mo.) Popcorn Co. plant.

The disease was first recognized in workers at the plant owned by Gilster-Mary Lee. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health subsequently confirmed its cause to be exposure to the chemical diacetyl contained in butter flavoring.

The lung disease is potentially fatal and can lead to the necessity of lung transplants in sufferers.

Workers with the disease began suing the manufacturers of the butter flavoring about nine years ago and have won verdicts in several states. A Jasper County jury awarded Eric Peoples of Carthage and his wife a $20 million verdict in 2004. A Chicago-area man won a $30.4 million verdict two years ago.

The jury awarded Watson $2,267,000 in actual damages and $5 million in punitive damages.

“What happened here was an avoidable tragedy,” McClain said of his Colorado client’s case. “Gilster-Mary Lee knew its own employees in the quality control room were getting sick from popping corn. It was not a long leap to recognize that consumers were also at risk.”

Other cases

Attorney Ken McClain lost a popcorn consumer case last year representing a woman from Blue Springs in Jackson County Circuit Court. He has two other popcorn consumer cases pending in Iowa and one in New York.

 

 

1
Text Only
Top Stories
  • r072814mailcar.jpg Rail car passes through downtown Joplin

    With a police escort leading the way, postal car No. 34 breezed through downtown Joplin on Monday en route to its new home in Redings Mill.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin council names Edwards as city attorney

    Peter Edwards has been named Joplin’s new city attorney.

    July 28, 2014

  • Jets Camp Football.jpg Jets’ Aboushi helped create 185 smiles in Sudan

    Oday Aboushi gently placed the young boy on the hospital room bed, and quickly stepped aside.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Public awareness is challenge for Carthage bond proposal

    If there is a challenge facing a Carthage wastewater bond issue on the August election ballot, it may be spreading the message to voters.

    July 28, 2014

  • Our view: 'Yes' on 7

    Opponents of Amendment 7 say this: “Missouri families are already hard pressed to pay their bills during this period of slow economic recovery.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Red Sox Tale of the Ring.jpg Lost Red Sox title ring returned by Yankees fan

    A lost Red Sox World Series ring is back on the finger of its owner, thanks to a nifty pickup by an ardent New York Yankees fan.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Picture 253.jpg Explore: Against the current

    Along the lower Buffalo River in Arkansas lie 29 miles that may be as isolated as any left in the Ozarks, perhaps the Midwest.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Anti-landfill group seeks grand jury probe

    As more than 200 people filed into Riverton High School on Sunday to attend an anti-landfill group meeting, many stopped to sign a petition asking the Cherokee County District Court to summon a grand jury to investigate how land was acquired by the city of Galena for a proposed landfill.

    July 27, 2014

  • 072814_jd anderson.jpg VIDEO: Noel strongman advances on talent show

    The past week has been busier than normal for Noel resident J.D. Anderson. Members of the production crew for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” told him they have shot more footage of him than of other contestants for the next episode. “They said I have the busiest schedule of anyone this week,” Anderson told the Globe in a phone interview Friday. “There’s so many fun things you can do with B-roll as a strongman.”

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • r071114redoak2.jpg Red Oak II: Lowell Davis’ ‘dream, art, love’ and final resting place

    The collection of buildings would become a town (though he didn’t intend for it to, and it has never been officially recognized either by the U.S. Postal Service or the state of Missouri).

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo