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
  • 041814 EPA projects5_72.jpg Contaminated mine tailings could be used on west bypass

    About 500 acres of former mining land at Wildwood Ranch have been reclaimed by contractors working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. More than 1 million cubic yards of contaminated mine tailings in the form of chat and waste rock have been consolidated in a surface repository that someday could be part of the roadbed for a limited-access highway that transportation planners hope to build on the west side of Joplin.

    April 20, 2014 4 Photos

  • Joplin City Council to hear baseball plan details

    Proposed redevelopment plans for Joe Becker Stadium will be discussed with the Joplin City Council in a work session at the end of its regular meeting tonight. The WLD Suarez partnership has obtained a franchise of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball that succeeds the El Paso (Texas) Diablos.

    April 20, 2014

  • Money to area lawmakers slows down but doesn’t stop

    With the Legislature back in session, the flow of campaign cash to local candidates has slowed. But in this election year, the money did not completely stop. All members of the local delegation to the Missouri General Assembly are on the ballot this year, but only two lawmakers are facing opposition.

    April 20, 2014

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • Enrollment open for Joplin summer school

    Enrollment is now open for the Joplin school district’s summer school session, which will run Wednesday, June 4, though Tuesday, July 1.

    April 19, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

  • Kansas Regents stick with social media policy

    After directing a committee to study a controversial social media policy and make recommended changes, the Kansas Board of Regents appears to not be changing the policy at all. It’s left some in academia baffled by why it appointed the work group in the first place.

    April 18, 2014

Facebook
Poll

The United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks, following Russia's buildup of forces near its border with Ukraine. Do you think we should deploy these troops?

Yes
No
     View Results
NDN Video
Raw: Fire Engulfs Tower Block in China Ocean Drones Making Waves in Research World Breakfast Foods Are Getting Pricier Raw: Ferry Captain Received Medical Treatment Hundreds Gather for Denver Pot Rally on Easter Transcript Reveals Confusion in Ferry Evacuation Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria