The Personal Injury Toxic Tort Claim – $7M for Popcorn Lung Disease | Indiana

Legal claims involving high-profile companies, products and big jury awards always draw the attention of media. The latest being $7M in damages awarded a man for injuries involving a potentially fatal lung disease called “popcorn lung.”

Toxic chemical found in microwavable butter-flavored popcornCall Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Inhaling a chemical compound called diacetyl, formerly found in butter flavoring, was known to cause a condition in which the smallest airways of the lung become scarred and constricted, blocking the movement of air. The debilitating and potentially fatal condition called Popcorn Lung Disease, also known as Bronchiolitis Obliterans, was diagnosed in the Claimant, a 59 year old man by the name of Wayne Watson.  His physician, a lung specialist at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, Colorado, knew his condition was caused by inhaling something. But when she asked him, based upon the symptoms he was experiencing, if he had been around a lot of popcorn, he was surprised she knew and he confirmed he had eaten microwaved butter-flavored popcorn twice a day for 10 years. Who hasn’t opened a freshly popped bag of butter-flavored microwavable popcorn and enjoyed the permeating buttery smell?

Five years later the flavoring manufacturer removed the chemical from the formula

Physicians have known since the year 2000 that the condition known as popcorn lung was related to the naturally occurring chemical compound called diacetyl which was in the butter flavoring added to microwavable popcorn. The National Institute for Occupational safety and Health (NIOSH) determined that inhaling large quantities of BBA butter flavoring caused lung disease in workers at a plant in Jasper, Missouri. In fact, a number of popcorn factory workers had developed the disease from inhaling the vapors of the butter flavoring and filed for workman compensation claims. NIOSH recommended the plant install industry ventilation hoods in the quality control areas. But the manufacturer of the butter flavoring did not remove diacetyl from the formula until the year 2007.

Factory workers file personal injury claims for damages associated with popcorn lung

Factory workers also filed claims with the courts for damages resulting from exposure to the toxic chemical. They claimed the manufacturers knew the buttery flavoring could be toxic but failed to warn them. Many of the original claims have successfully gone to trial or been settled. One factory worker, Eric Peoples, and his wife, received a jury award of $20M in 2007 against the flavoring manufacturer for personal injury damages from the lung disease. Peoples developed popcorn lung within a year of starting work at the popcorn factory in Jasper. Today, a number of claims by factory workers in various states, most across corn belt areas of the country, are currently in litigation.

But Watson’s claim, filed early in 2008, was the first claim of popcorn lung disease by a consumer. The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) became aware of Mr. Watson’s illness in 2007 and although FEMA has no legal authority to prohibit the use of diacetyl, they issued a press release asking the flavor manufacturers to reduce “the diacetyl content of these flavors to the extent possible.” In his suit, Watson claimed the companies failed to warn the consumer of the risk associated with inhaling a bag of corn popped in the microwave as intended by the manufacturers and that smelling the buttery aroma could expose the consumer to an inhalation hazard or a risk of lung injury. Mr. Watson’s lung disease, caused by years of exposure to diacetyl, is serious. The only hope for many with the disease is to have a single or double lung transplant. The jury in Watson’s case found shared responsibility between the manufacturer of the popcorn (80% at fault) and the supermarket where he purchased the foods (20% at fault). Associated Press reported Mr. Watson also settled prior claims against the flavor developer.

Diacetyl, although considered safe to eat and  approved for consumption as a flavor ingredient by The Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) studies in the initial plant documented a relationship between cumulative exposure to diacetyl vapor over time and having abnormal lung function . It’s currently used in many consumer products such as margarine, wine, and cheese. When ingested, the body has the ability to metabolize small amounts of diacetyl with no known health hazards.

To learn more about popcorn lung disease and daily exposure to the chemical, diacetyl, you can obtain a free copy of NIOSH’s publication entitled NIOSH ALERT: Preventing Lung Disease in Workers Who Use or Make Flavorings by clicking on this link.

Lawyers Experienced in Tort Claims

If you have been injured or know someone who has been injured as a result of someone’s negligence, call attorney, Charlie Ward, for a free consultation at (317) 639-9501. The law firm of Ward & Ward has over 80 years of combined experience in personal injury and wrongful death claims including injuries resulting from auto, motorcycle and trucking accidents.

 

Recovering Medical Expenses for Personal Injuries or Wrongful Death and the Collateral Source Statute – Your Indianapolis, Indiana Auto, Motorcycle and Trucking Accident Lawyer

Indiana’s Collateral Source Statute bars over-recovery for medical billsCall Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Under Indiana law, the driver who is at fault for the injuries of another has a duty to pay for the injured party’s “reasonable” and “necessary” medical bills. But what is considered “reasonable and necessary?”

One method of proving reasonability is by introducing into evidence, the statement of charges for injuries received as a result of the accident from the health care provider. Indiana Evidence Rule 413 provides that such statements are admissible as evidence and “shall constitute prima facie evidence that the charges are reasonable.”

Indiana’s Collateral Source Statute prevents the Plaintiff from over-recovery—or recovering more than once—for a monetary loss sustained from personal injury or wrongful death.

IC 34-44-1 provides for allowing into evidence the following:

  • Proof of collateral source payments (i.e. medical payments made by health insurance providers or workers compensation for the benefit of the plaintiff)
  • Proof of the amount of money that the plaintiff is required to repay
  • Proof of the cost to the plaintiff or to members of the plaintiff’s family of collateral benefits received by the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s family

Exceptions to the collateral source rule include: life insurance or other death benefits, insurance benefits or premiums plaintiff or plaintiff’s family have paid for directly, or payments made by any agency, instrumentality, or subdivision of the state or the United States, i.e. defendant may not lessen their financial obligation for damages by introducing into evidence Plaintiff’s medical billing discounts or discounts provided to plaintiff as a benefit to the insured by the contract established between their health insurance carrier and their health provider. Americanbar.org states the following:

Indiana retains the common law principle that collateral source payments should not reduce a damage award if the payment resulted from the plaintiff’s own forethought, such as insurance purchased by the plaintiff or government benefits that the plaintiff has paid for through taxes.

Ward & Ward is a plaintiff’s law firm experienced in protecting the interests of personal injury victims and wrongful death claims. If you have been injured in an automobile, motorcycle, bicycle or trucking accident, I urge you to call me at 317-639-9501 for a free consultation at your earliest convenience.

Charlie Ward

[email protected]

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
(317) 639-9501